GOP senator offers up new defense of President Trump

Allan Smith

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said Sunday that the administration officials who provided the whistleblower with information on President Donald Trump's conduct toward Ukraine "exposed things that didn't need to be exposed."

Johnson, who spoke with the president about why military aid was being withheld from Ukraine prior to the administration releasing the hold in mid-September, spoke to NBC's "Meet the Press" after a week that saw three officials at the heart of U.S.-Ukraine relations testify publicly in the impeachment probe.

The Wisconsin senator said he wanted "to point out is the damage being done to our country through this entire impeachment process."

"It's going to be very difficult for future presidents to have a very candid conversation with a world leader because now we've set the precedent of leaking transcripts," he said. "The weakening of executive privilege is not good. And by the way, these individuals that leaked this. If their interest was a stronger relationship with Ukraine, they did not accomplish this. Having this all come out into public has weakened that relationship and exposed things that didn't need to be exposed."

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He pointed to a trip he took to Ukraine with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in early September, saying that after the discussion he told Murphy "let's try to minimize" the hold on military aid.

"This would have been far better off if we would have just taken care of this behind the scenes," he said. "We have two branches of government. Most people, most people, want to support Ukraine that are trying to convince President Trump."

"If the whistleblower's goal is to improve our relationship with Ukraine, he utterly — or she — utterly failed," Johnson said of the CIA employee who, in an official complaint, said the president was soliciting help from a foreign nation in his 2020 reelection efforts. Their complaint set off a series of events that eventually led to the House's impeachment inquiry.