Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) submitted a letter to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday in which he questioned the motives of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an impeachment inquiry witness, and backed up the president’s reason for delaying security aid to Ukraine.
Johnson has some firsthand knowledge of some of the subject matter pertinent to the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry; he is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he attended Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky’s inauguration.
The senator referred to a comment Vindman made during that trip, when the National Security Council official said that “our relationship with Ukraine should be kept separate from our geopolitical competition with Russia,” something Johnson viewed as impossible. It caused Johnson to question Vindman’s support of the administration’s policies.
“I do not know if Vindman accurately stated the NSC’s position, whether President Trump shared that viewpoint, or whether Vindman was really just expressing his own view,” Johnson wrote. “I raise this point because I believe that 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.’ 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 that profile.”
One of the major points of contention in the impeachment inquiry is a debate about why President Trump temporarily withheld security aid to Ukraine. He has said it was withheld over concerns about Ukrainian corruption and because other European countries were not contributing enough, while Democrats allege he wrongly used the aid to pressure Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, for political reasons.
Johnson wrote that Trump’s reasons were consistent.
“The president was not prepared to lift the hold, and he was consistent in the reasons he cited,” Johnson wrote of an Aug. 31 conversation with Trump. “He reminded me how thoroughly corrupt Ukraine was and again conveyed his frustration that Europe doesn’t do its fair share of providing military aid.”