Wisconsin Public Radio

Irrelevant If Trump Broke Law, Johnson Says

Wisconsin’s Republican Senator is voting against impeachment of president.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Feb 5th, 2020 10:55 am
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Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said a federal agency’s finding that President Donald Trump broke the law by withholding federal aid to Ukraine is irrelevant, and he’ll vote to acquit the president on both articles of impeachment.

Johnson, a Republican from Oshkosh, has been one of Trump’s stalwart supporters throughout the impeachment trial, despite having disagreed with the president’s position on Ukraine aid. On a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Johnson defended his decision to vote against allowing witnesses in the Senate trial, saying he saw no sense in extending a process he didn’t think should have begun in the first place.

“The articles (of impeachment) that (the House) produced do not allege any crime, not even what I would consider an impeachable offense,” Johnson said. “That’s why I will not vote to convict; I’ll vote to acquit.”

In a decision released Jan. 27, the federal Government Accountability Office found that Trump violated the law when he ordered congressionally mandated aid to Ukraine to be withheld. Johnson said that finding is not significant and is “not much of a factor” in his own judgment on impeachment.

“Those types of disputes between the executive branch and Congress happen all the time,” he said. “None of those things rise to the level of impeachment. I don’t think it’s particularly relevant.”

Democratic impeachment trial managers made the case that the administration’s decision to withhold the aid was based on a desire to secure from Ukraine a public announcement of an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of one of Trump’s domestic political rivals, former vice president Joe Biden.

Johnson, who was involved as a member of Congress in Ukraine issues, argued that the administration should release the aid. He reiterated Tuesday that he disagreed with Trump’s Ukraine policy at the time. (The administration did release the aid in September.) But he said he believed Trump was focused on the 2016 election, not in tampering with the 2020 campaign.

“I never viewed his desire to find what happened in Ukraine as having anything to do with the 2020 election,” he said. “It was all a look back, trying to explain in some way, shape or form how he ended up with the special counsel.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller investigated Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, an investigation that led to indictments and convictions of former Trump aides and Russian operatives.

In an October statement from Johnson on his interactions with Trump on Ukraine, Johnson said he “did not recall in any meeting or discussion with the president, or any member of the administration, that the term ‘quid pro quo’ was ever used.” Johnson also said Trump “adamantly” denied having put conditions on foreign aid.

“I felt guilty even asking the question,” Johnson said Tuesday.

But the claim that Trump was not demanding a quid pro quo from Ukraine is contradicted in a new book by former national security adviser John Bolton, according to reporting by the New York Times about the unpublished manuscript. Johnson last week told a reporter that “my guess is John Bolton tells the truth.”

“I don’t know exactly what was in the president’s mind,” Johnson said Tuesday. “But when he told me that there was no arrangement (with Ukraine), I believed him.”

Democrats sought to have Bolton testify in the Senate trial, a move blocked by Johnson and other Republicans. Johnson said he expects that Bolton’s account will be made public in the coming months, but also said that “I don’t think whatever John says is going to affect my evaluation.”

Wisconsin’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, voted in favor of hearing witnesses in the impeachment trial and is expected to vote to convict the president. At a Jan. 27 press conference, Baldwin said senators’ oath to uphold the Constitution required them to respond to what she called Trump’s abuses of power. And she singled out the interactions with Trump that Johnson had spoken publicly about.

“The people of Wisconsin certainly want to know if the president did not tell Sen. Johnson the truth,” she said.

The Senate will vote on Wednesday to convict or acquit Trump. Republicans reportedly have secured enough votes to acquit the president.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Johnson: Finding That Trump Broke Law Not Relevant In Impeachment Trial was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

8 thoughts on “Irrelevant If Trump Broke Law, Johnson Says”

  1. Kmichel says:

    Johnson last week told a reporter that “my guess is John Bolton tells the truth.”

    “I don’t know exactly what was in the president’s mind,” Johnson said Tuesday. “But when he told me that there was no arrangement (with Ukraine), I believed him.”

    He shouldn’t be able to have it both ways, but as we all witnessed, that matters not to this lawless bunch of Republican liars.

  2. Duane says:

    It’s irrelevant because those RonJohn eyes, so dreamy !

  3. frank a schneiger says:

    As the historian T.W. Maitland once said, “We should always beware that what now lies in the future once lay in the past.” Depending on how things turn out for the country, it will be useful to remember where Ron Johnson and lots of others stood at this time. Johnson is a bit player in this drama, a sub-mediocrity in a Senate that is now a nest of mediocrity. But, Johnson is only a reflection of a deeply divided nation where a lot of people, an apparent majority of white citizens, and one of the two major political parties now support the following:

    1) Various forms of white supremacy, masked by things like the Black people used as props in the State of the Union speech to allow people to say, “Racist? Hey, not me. You’re the racist.”
    2) Vast, largely unreported corruption that has eaten away at the the institutions of government, particularly in major federal agencies such as the Treasury Department, Department of Justice, EPA, Commerce Department, Agriculture Department, Energy Department. Damage that may be irreversible, regardless of the results of the forthcoming election. And not even including, the grasping, money grubbing corruption of the president and his family.
    3) The destruction of truth and the complicity of large numbers of people who defend the now more than 10,000 lies by a pathological president. And, including those people in “the base,” those who believe lies that they want to believe and repackage them as a president who “tells it like it is,” especially when it is a slur against any non-white, non-right wing, non-“Christian” groups.
    4) A vast tax cut for the richest people and corporations that has deepened our already world leading inequality and is a ticking time bomb for when the next recession comes.
    4)The reality that, for electoral success, the Republican Party now depends on voter suppression, gerrymandering, dark money, a rigged upcoming census, and extremist elements that now include outright racists and Neo-Nazis who threaten violence, along with, something previously unbelievable, an unspoken reliance on Russian intervention for electoral success.

    We’ll see what all of this looks like in ten years. A lot will depend on who writes the history of this period and whether we will be getting our news from Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Fox and Friends and the potential future president Tucker Carlson.

  4. mkwagner says:

    Enlighten me Sen. Johnson what other president used tax payer money to exhort a foreign power to interfere in our elections on his behalf? History will judge you Sen. Johnson and not kindly. Your hypocrisy as well as that of McConnell and others, are destroying our democracy. That maybe what you want. However, it will end badly for you as well as your constituents whom you consistently fail to represent.

    I ask you, Sen. Johnson, if there are no consequences for the president when he breaks the law, why should anyone be beholden to the law? Either the rule of law applies to everyone or it applies to no one. As Colin Powell so beautifully stated, our Constitution is about “We, the people,”) not me the president.

  5. Mingus says:

    The message is that future Presidents can do what they want. Have Republicans ever considered that a future Democratic President could take Executive Action banning the sale of semiautomatic weapons after a mass shooting that would drive Republicans to impeach him or her. Of course, they would claim that this was some “high crime” even though they have established the precedent that Presidents can do what they want.

  6. Barbara Richards says:

    Our Junior Senator from Wisconsin has to cover his you know what!!! He was right in the middle of all this. He is not dumb…just has forgotten how important the truth is…we all are weak when we feel all we have worked for may be destroyed by an action, a word we didn’t say at the time it was needed…the darkness just gets bigger with more words and actions not taken. A moral mistake, compounded.

    When we have martial law declared this summer of unrest at the political conventions and Trump gets his dream of President for Life, …first they came for…

  7. Thomas Martinsen says:

    Barbara Richards,

    I respect your analysis on the paralysis of our junior senator. “He was right in the middle of this,” along with clown ambassador Sondlan: both tools of the former Mayor of America, who has been diminished to another Trump tool.

    Mitt Romney had the stones to stand up to Trump once out of 2 votes: neither of which really mattered since it was known that neither Collins, Alexander or any other Republican senators were going to stand up to the bully

    I hope the nightmare senario of martial law does not happen this summer, but I sadly find it plausible.

  8. Alan Bartelme says:

    So why is the Senate still investigating the Bidens? If anything the president does is for the good of the nation, as Trump claims, then doesn’t it follow that anything the vice president does is also for the good of the nation? So anything the Bidens did while Joe was VP is fine! Also, if Obama wiretapped Trump’s phones, then that’s OK as well because Obama was president and anything the president does is for the good of the nation.

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