GOP senator offers up new defense of President Trump

GOP senator offers up new defense of President Trump

US News

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said Sunday that the administration officials who provided the whistleblower with information on President Donald Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine “exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed.”

Johnson, who spoke with the president about why military aid was being withheld from Ukraine prior to the administration releasing the hold in mid-September, spoke to NBC’s “Meet the Press” after a week that saw three officials at the heart of U.S.-Ukraine relations testify publicly in the impeachment probe.

The Wisconsin senator said he wanted “to point out is the damage being done to our country through this entire impeachment process.”

“It’s going to be very difficult for future presidents to have a very candid conversation with a world leader because now we’ve set the precedent of leaking transcripts,” he said. “The weakening of executive privilege is not good. And by the way, these individuals that leaked this. If their interest was a stronger relationship with Ukraine, they did not accomplish this. Having this all come out into public has weakened that relationship and exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed.”

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Republican Sen. Ron Johnson

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FILE – In this June 26, 2019 file photo, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, speaks during a hearing on border security, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Johnson said Friday he learned from a U.S. ambassador that President Donald Trump was tying military aid for Ukraine to an investigation of the 2016 election. But when asked if he could assure the Ukraine leadership the money would be coming, Trump blocked him from carrying that message. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks with members of the media after meeting with the Middleton Chamber of Commerce at Serendipity Labs in Madison, Wis., Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. Johnson Thursday that there was nothing wrong with President Donald Trump asking China and the Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and his son. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., heads to the Senate for a vote, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, after attending a briefing on election security. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, speaks during a hearing on border security, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., second from left, shakes hands with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., second from right, as they participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Department of Homeland Security’s St. Elizabeths Campus Center Building in Washington, Friday, June 21, 2019. General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy, left, and acting deputy undersecretary for management Randolph Alles, right, watch. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

FILE – In this April 27, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump, right, accompanied by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., left, arrives at Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wis. Republicans determined to deliver Wisconsin for Trump next year will emphasize at their state convention that starts Friday that they must do a better job engaging with grassroots voters if they hope to rebound from a devastating 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., center, holds up a Make America Great Again sign as President Donald Trump speaks at a Make America Great Again rally Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., greets guests on the tarmac as he arrives with President Donald Trump at Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wis., Saturday, April 27, 2019, for a rally. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, speaks during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Donald Trump sought to use a speech by his wife to move beyond delegate discontent at the Republican National Convention, only to have the second day open with an onslaught of accusations that his wife’s speech lifted phrases from one delivered by Michelle Obama in 2008. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

OTAY MESA, CA – APRIL 21: Department of Homeland Security John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Session speak to the media during a tour of the border and immigrant detention operations at Brown Field Station on April 21, 2017 in Otay Mesa, California. Secretary Kelly and Attorney General Sessions are on the second leg of a tour together this week after visiting El Paso and were joined by U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ron Johnson (D-WI) questions Kirstjen Nielsen (unseen) on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

UNITED STATES – APRIL 5: Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., talk before the arrival of Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on ‘Improving Border Security and Public Safety’
on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Chairman Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) speaks prior to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifying before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on border security on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, from left, Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, smile during a press conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 27, 2017. Senate�Republicans are gearing up to try to pass a stripped-down Obamacare repeal plan many hope won’t become law. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) speaks with reporters about the Senate health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) (L) speaks with reporters about healthcare legislation outside the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, speaks to members of the media in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Senate Republicans making one last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare have the daunting task of assembling 50 votes for an emotionally charged bill with limited details on how it would work, what it would cost and how it would affect health coverage — all in 12 days. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senators John McCain (R-AZ) (L) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) (R) walk to their weekly party caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Billionaire Terry Gou, chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, center, and Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, right, smile as Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, left, speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. President Donald Trump announced that Foxconn plans a new factory in Wisconsin, fulfilling the Taiwanese manufacturing giants promise to invest in the U.S. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, center, speaks while Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, second left, and Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, right, listen during a press conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Senate Republicans said they will make a major push in this fall’s appropriations process to fund security enhancements along the U.S.-Mexico border, including a border wall. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images




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He pointed to a trip he took to Ukraine with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in early September, saying that after the discussion he told Murphy “let’s try to minimize” the hold on military aid.

“This would have been far better off if we would have just taken care of this behind the scenes,” he said. “We have two branches of government. Most people, most people, want to support Ukraine that are trying to convince President Trump.”

“If the whistleblower’s goal is to improve our relationship with Ukraine, he utterly — or she — utterly failed,” Johnson said of the CIA employee who, in an official complaint, said the president was soliciting help from a foreign nation in his 2020 reelection efforts. Their complaint set off a series of events that eventually led to the House’s impeachment inquiry.


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