In a lengthy exclusive interview with "The Dan O'Donnell Show" on Tuesday, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson directly contradicted House Democrats' impeachment narrative and outlined exactly why President Trump withheld aid to Ukraine.
Johnson, chairman of both the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was intimately involved in discussions surrounding Ukraine aid and spoke with President Trump Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky directly. Johnson had been pushing President Trump to release the aid since he learned in mid-July that it was being withheld. Once Ukraine learned of this a month later, Johnson and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) traveled to Kiev to meet with Zelensky directly.
"I was an incredibly open, frank, and supportive discussion," Johnson said, adding that "never, not once" did Zelensky or any Ukrainian official ever bring up any pressure coming from the White House to perform any act in exchange for either the release of the aid or a meeting between Zelensky and Trump.
"There was no reason for anyone on either side not to be completely honest or to withhold any concerns," Johnson reiterated in a letter to the ranking members of the House Oversight and Intelligence Committees on Monday. "At no time during this meeting — or any other meeting on this trip — was there any mention by Zelensky or any Ukrainian that they were feeling pressure to do anything in return for the military aid, not even after Murphy warned them about getting involved in the 2020 election – which would have been the perfect time to discuss any pressure."
Johnson also told "The Dan O'Donnell Show" Tuesday that President Trump never conditioned the release of aid on any specific action by Ukraine; saying that Trump was instead concerned that Ukraine was a "corrupt place" and that the United States was paying too much in aid while its European allies paid too little.
"He was incredibly consistent," Johnson recalled. "'Ron, [President Trump said], you know how corrupt this place is and besides, why doesn't Europe do this? I talked to [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel and asked, 'why don't you fund this?' And she said, 'because we know you will.' We're schmucks, Ron! We're schmucks!'
"That was the main part of the conversation," Johnson continued. "I'm the one who brought up, 'Well Mr. President, I've heard this rumor that there's something in the works that if Ukraine does this, you'll do that.' Not a moment's hesitation, and there were plenty of expletives deleted, [President Trump answered] 'No way! I would never do that! Who told you that?'"
Johnson said that the President then excused himself to "deal with a hurricane," but ended their conversation by telling Johnson, "'I hear what you're saying, we're reviewing it right now, and I think you're going to like my decision.' That was August 31st, and on September 11th the funding was released."
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