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Ron Johnson tries (and fails) to blame Dems for crisis in Ukraine

As Ron Johnson sees it, Democrats “weakened” Ukraine when Donald Trump extorted Ukraine. That’s not just wrong, it gets reality exactly backwards.


In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a wide variety of Republicans have looked for ways to capitalize politically, usually by trying to blame President Joe Biden. Sen. Ron Johnson, not surprisingly, echoed the party line on Fox News this week, but as HuffPost noted, the Wisconsin Republican also broke new ground, targeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

“I don’t think Vladimir Putin would have moved on Ukraine were it not for the weakness displayed — certainly by the Biden administration, but by the West in general,” Johnson said in a Fox News Sunday interview. “I’m certainly hoping that Col. Vindman, Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi — who used Ukraine as a pawn in their impeachment travesty — are also recognizing and reflecting about how they weakened Ukraine, weakened the West, weakened America by the divisive politics that they play.”

To be fair, the GOP senator went on to say that responsibility for atrocities in Ukraine “falls squarely on the shoulders of Vladimir Putin and his cronies,” but that didn’t negate everything else he said in the interview.

To the extent that reality matters, let’s set the record straight. As we’ve discussed, it was two years ago when Donald Trump held a phone meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. According to the official White House call summary, the Ukrainian leader broached the subject of military aid with his American counterpart, at which point the Republican replied, “I would like you do us a favor, though.”

What followed was a scheme in which Trump tried to leverage security assistance to an ally in the hopes that Zelenskyy and his government would help the American president cheat ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections. This was an illegal extortion scheme for which the then-president was impeached.

Vindman helped expose the scheme, while Pelosi and Schiff helped hold Trump accountable.

As the Wisconsin Republican sees it, this means Democrats “weakened Ukraine” and “used Ukraine as a pawn.” That’s not just wrong, it gets reality exactly backwards.

It was Trump who tried to withhold military aid for Ukraine. It was Trump who personally forced out a capable U.S. ambassador in Ukraine. It was also Trump who spread baseless propaganda about Ukraine.

And it was Johnson who, when given the opportunity, decided not to hold his party’s president accountable for any of this. The GOP senator also, incidentally, tried to smear Vindman for having told the truth.

When Schiff took note of Johnson’s bizarre rhetoric and encouraged the Republican to “sit this one out,” the senator responded by again accusing the Democratic congressman of making Ukraine “vulnerable,” this time by pointing to “Russian collusion evidence you never had.”

First, Trump’s Russia scandal is real, even if Republicans pretend not to believe it. Investigations from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee documented the extent to which Trump and his team welcomed, received, benefited from, and lied about Russian campaign assistance.

The evidence shows there was coordination and high-level connections between Trump’s political operation and those responsible for the attack on our election. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report at one point literally described a “direct tie between senior Trump Campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services.”

If Johnson hasn’t seen this, the documentation is online and readily available.

Second, the idea that the investigation into this scandal made Ukraine “vulnerable” is the sort of foolish argument that Johnson should find too embarrassing to peddle.