Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) raised a few eyebrows over the weekend, appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, and presenting a defense of Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal we hadn’t yet heard.
“This would have been far better off if we would have just taken care of this behind the scenes,” Johnson told Chuck Todd. Pointing to the revelations from the intelligence community’s whistleblower, the Wisconsin Republican said the whistleblower was responsible for a “leak” that “exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed.”
In other words, the scandal here isn’t Trump’s abuses, but rather, the fact that the president’s apparent misdeeds came to public light. Or as Catherine Rampell joked, “The crime here isn’t the arson; it’s that snitching smoke alarm.”
Yesterday, the GOP senator – who serves as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee – went quite a bit further, responding in writing to questions from Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who asked Johnson for his insights. As Politico reported, the senator responded by trying to undermine a key witness the day before his testimony.
Johnson (R-Wis.), in a letter sent Monday to House Republicans, questioned the credibility of Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine specialist with the National Security Council who listened in on President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, in which Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate his political rivals.
“A significant number of bureaucrats and staff members within the executive branch have never accepted President Trump as legitimate and resent his unorthodox style and his intrusion onto their ‘turf’,” Johnson wrote. “They react by leaking to the press and participating in the ongoing effort to sabotage his policies and, if possible, remove him from office. It is entirely possible that Vindman fits this profile.”
Of course, in context, “entirely possible” is an unfortunate way of Johnson saying he has no proof to substantiate his irresponsible rhetoric.
It prompted Rep Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) to offer the far-right senator some sensible advice: “Here’s a pro-tip: if you find yourself lying about a war hero, you should probably question your choices in life. My advice to Ron Johnson is to walk around the block and think about it.”
For more along these lines, note that this week was hardly the first in which the Wisconsin Republican has been reckless in his partisan defense of the White House. Johnson has also spent recent weeks peddling odd conspiracy theories, while insisting he does not trust the FBI or the CIA.