The fast and furious news continues to break about the impeachment inquiry of President Trump into whether he used the power of his office with a foreign country to help his 2020 presidential campaign.
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, a fellow Republican who is the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, joined WTMJ 2020 with Steve Scaffidi and said he spoke with Ukrainan President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Ukranian president never communicated to Johnson that he felt pressured to help President Trump’s campaign in order to receive benefits for his country, according to the Senator.
We are sharing Senator Johnson’s words in full, with some words redacted for grammar. You can listen to his full comments above.
Senator Johnson: “First of all, I have first-hand knowledge because I went to Ukraine, sat down with President Zelensky, talked to President Trump prior to that because I was trying to get the President to release the funding. President Trump was very consistent in that conversation, since that conversation, but even prior to that, in terms of his rationale, I mean in what he stated for me is that he is concerned about corruption. When I relay that President Zelensky, that’s why he ran and won with a huge mandate in Ukraine (to) defeat corruption in Ukraine, so he’s totally in agreement with President Trump that you have to be concerned about corruption in Ukraine.
“Secondly, President Trump has always been concerned about the fact that our European partners are not stepping up to the plate, funding NATO to the extent that they made their own commitment. Or really helping out Ukraine. Ukraine’s in their backyard, not ours.
“Those are the reasons President Trump relayed to me in our phone conversation on August 31st before I went to meet with President Zelensky. It was the first topic President Zelensky raised.
“But he certainly did not say in any way, shape, or form he felt under pressure or that there was any type of if you do this, I’ll do that. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“I realize the narrative from Democrats and most members on the media, putting the worst possible construction on that phone call. I’ve spoken with the President enough on the phone and in person. It’s how he approaches his job.
“He’s a New York business guy, he’s different than a Wisconsinite. When he says it’s a beautiful phone call, I take a look at that, that it’s a pretty gracious phone call.
“By the way, there’s nothing wrong (and I’m very sympathetic with the President), how this whole Russian collusion narrative gets spun up. He’s been through two and a half, three years, of you know what as POTUS. He kind of liked to understand ‘what happened here?” And everyone says well there’s no evidence, all of these things have been debunked.
“Well I am Chairman of Homeland Security and Government Affairs, the central oversight committee. I have all kinds of questions, dating back to Hilary Clinton’s email scandal, all the way through the FBI’s handling of that, as well as the Russian collusion, and now this with the whistleblower.”
“I was talking about this, they changed this disclosure aversion concern form within the intelligence committee IG in August. Prior to that, they said that if you’re going to get around the normal procedure, and basically short circuit that and transmit that information to congress, you have to have first-hand information. All of a sudden was changed to hearsay, to rumor. We heard those rumors and those just aren’t true”.
Steve Scaffidi: “Are you at all concerned that this sitting President mentioned the name of a possible political opponent in a call with a foreign leader?”
Senator Johnson: “Again I understand where he was coming from. He was listing a host of issues. He was concerned about Ukrainian corruption and there’s all kinds of questions that are not answered. And by the way, I know right now the press is going after a reporter called John Solomon with the Hill as some kind of conspiracy theorist. John Solomon has a bunch of solid sources and he’s raising all kinds of additional questions. People just need to keep an open mind. I have a lot of questions that are not answered.”
Steve Scaffidi: “Where do you think this is going in the near term?”
Senator Johnson: “I mean that will totally be up to the House. Again, I’ll take a different perspective on this. Understand how incredibly damaging it is to any president, their ability to conduct foreign policy, when you have conversations between the president and other heads of state, leaked to the press, which is what happened to President Trump. Conversations with the Australian Prime Minister and Mexican President were leaked. It’s just kind of natural that the White House takes that seriously, and make sure that those conversations, the transcripts of those things, are held in pretty high security. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we do need to understand what has happened here. With the change in the ICIG’s form, allowing second hand information to be used to short circuit the process, now that that conversation has been released. By the way, President Trump released it very quickly. I mean he believes he (honors) himself, I mean that goes to his intent, what he thinks his purpose of that phone call was. I think people need to take a look at this from a different perspective.”
Steve Scaffidi: “Does it change the future of Presidential communications if a call with a foreign leader, now every one of these becomes open to public scrutiny?”
Senator Johnson: “We heard President Putin say, I sure hope that my conversation with President Trump aren’t leaked. No head of state is going to want those candid conversations leaked to the public and shouldn’t. We do need heads of state talking candidly and sometimes some of those conversations really would not be understood by the public, should not be divulged to the public.
“How do you conduct foreign policy? That’s not just with phone calls either. As you’re talking to world leaders, there are notes being taken, you don’t want that divulged. There is a reason we have executive privilege. There’s a reason that this stuff has to remain confidential and now blown up and open for the scrutiny of the public.”
Watch the interview, courtesy of WisEye.org: