2019-11-18 20:35:561 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
It seems the Republican response to the impeachment inquiry has shifted. It was always very telling all along that no one was defending Trump and that instead they were attacking the whistleblower and the inquiry, noting there was no firsthand information.
However, now that witnesses are testifying to having firsthand information of Trump asking Ukraine to conduct investigations of his political opponents in exchange for a White House visit and military aid, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is saying that the whistleblower's sources "exposed things that didn't need to be exposed."
"This would have been far better off if we would've just taken care of this behind the scenes," the senator said in an appearance on NBC News's "Meet the Press." "We have two branches of government. Most people, most people wanted to support Ukraine. We were trying to convince President Trump."
In other words, he would have preferred if no one found out about it and if they had kept Trump's actions that he and others did not approve of secret. By saying, "we were trying to convince President Trump," it leads to the question of how much he knows, with the knowledge that he met in July with a former Ukrainian diplomat who circulated a conspiracy theory about Ukraine and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
Whatever he does know, he knows he can't openly criticize the president. Trump is calling out everyone who speaks up against him, including Vice President Mike Pence's special adviser on Europe and Russia, Jennifer Williams.
"Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, and see the just-released statement from Ukraine," the president tweeted. "Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don't know and mostly never even heard of, and work out a better presidential attack!"
Williams will be testifying publicly on Tuesday after doing so behind closed doors on Saturday. She suggested that the Office of Management and Budget had shut down military aid to Ukraine more than two weeks before it had previously been reported. Both she and National Security Council Ukraine expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that they noticed as early as July 3 that the military aid was being withheld, though they did not know the reason.
Johnson's comment comes after Williams' closed-door testimony and before her public testimony, as well as before the public testimony of Vindman and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who witnesses are indicating knew more than he let on in his deposition. He'll get a chance to set the record straight this week.
"His story continues to change," noted Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who also appeared on "Meet the Press." "He's got to decide this weekend whether he's an American first or a Trump loyalist."
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was dismissive of the witnesses in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," noting "they were not all Trump administration folks" and that "they're Schiff's witnesses," referring to House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is leading the impeachment hearings.
When host Chris Wallace pointed out that most of the witnesses are part of the Trump administration, Scalise replied that "there are a lot of people who worked in the Trump administration who have very countering views to that, and they've not been allowed to come forward."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) put the criticism of the impeachment hearings right back on the president himself while talking to reporters on Sunday.
"If Donald Trump doesn't agree with what he's hearing — doesn't like what he's hearing — he shouldn't tweet," he said. "He should come to the committee and testify under oath. And he should allow those around him to come to the committee and testify under oath."
Johnson discussed the "damage that's being done to our entire country through this entire impeachment process," explaining, "It's going to be very difficult for future presidents to have a candid conversation with a world leader because now we've set the precedent of leaking transcripts." He added that "the weakening of the executive privilege is not good."
Additionally, Johnson finds fault with how the whistleblower's actions have damaged the U.S. relationship with Ukraine. "Those individuals that leaked this, if their interest was a stronger relationship with the Ukraine [sic], they didn't accomplish this. Having this all come out into public has weakened that relationship, has exposed things that didn't need to be exposed," he said.
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