Dear Senator Ron Johnson:
I had previously made contact with your office (via electronic form submission through your website) requesting clarification regarding your signature appearing on a letter written to the Ukrainian government, dated February 12, 2016. This letter encouraged then-President Poroshenko to address “persistent corruption” by—among other things—pressing “ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General’s office and judiciary.”
In my communication with your office, I expressed concern that this letter is evidence that there was bipartisan U.S. Policy at the time to remove the existing Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Viktor Shokin. As this seems to conflict with the current GOP charge that Vice President Joe Biden acted inappropriately by pressuring the Ukrainian government to remove Mr. Shokin, I continue to seek clarification from you. It seems apparent that you could have defended this charge against Joe Biden by referencing your letter to point out the bipartisan nature of his action.
I have yet to receive a response to my request but I have since read an article from The Hill sharing your claim that you did not remember signing this letter. As you were a member of the Ukrainian Caucus that had written and submitted this letter, I found this difficult to believe. Regardless of this memory lapse, in this same article, you are quoted, in an exchange on The Vicki McKenna Show, that you felt it was a common understanding that Viktor Shokin was not doing an adequate job to fight corruption. Again, this statement is evidence that Joe Biden’s actions to pressure Ukraine were consistent with U.S. policy that you personally agreed with.
Even after acknowledging this opinion, you have done little to clarify this matter. Rather, you continue to defend President Trump from the accusation that he was leveraging foreign aid allocated for Ukraine for an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. You must understand that Trump’s request for an investigation of the Bidens hinges on the accusation that Joe Biden acted inappropriately by pressuring the Ukrainian president to oust the Prosecutor General. Your signature is evidence that Joe Biden was acting consistently with the prevailing bipartisan opinion that you shared.
Why have you not corrected the president’s incorrect accusation? Couldn’t your letter quickly clear up President Trump’s confusion on this matter?
Your unwillingness to connect your letter with President Trump’s accusation against the Bidens has had a direct impact on the impeachment inquiry and the ongoing focus on the Biden family. As this focus is likely damaging the reputation of Joe Biden–as intended–and, as the underlying assumption of Biden’s wrongdoing is based on an inaccurate claim of ill intent by President Trump, your failure to act makes you complicit in this ongoing effort to smear the name of Joe Biden. In my opinion, you have an ethical obligation to correct the president’s misunderstanding. Perhaps, at the same time, you could educate him on the fact that no physical DNC server has ever been in Ukraine and that Crowdstrike is not owned by a wealthy Ukrainian; two claims he repeats often.
Rather than offer clarification, you seem to have purposely added confusion to the matters under investigation in your letter of November 18, 2019 submitted to Jim Jordan (Ranking Member on Oversight and Reform) and Devin Nunes (Ranking Member Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
You begin your letter by admitting your partisanship when you state, “I view this impeachment inquiry as a continuation of a concerted, and possibly coordinated, effort to sabotage the Trump administration…”
You must understand that this statement shows you to have a preconceived bias and indicates a misunderstanding of the term “inquiry,” which is not an act of sabotage, but rather a constitutionally authorized investigation to determine whether or not the president engaged in any wrongdoing.
Your bias is further punctuated by your mention of the Hillary Clinton email scandal three times and your cryptic suggestions that “investigations resulting from it by a number of committees, reporters, and agencies have revealed multiple facts and episodes that are similar to aspects of the latest effort to find grounds from impeachment.” You go on to mention the political bias evident in the Strzok/Page texts and the Steele dossier. This seems to be an attempt on your part to taint opinions of the current impeachment inquiry by implying a connection between it and the Strzok/Page issue. There is no evidence that any such link exists. In effect, you are betraying your political bias by suggesting an opposing one that doesn’t exist.
It is the third item in your list of these supposed “multiple facts and episodes” that causes me the most concern. You refer to the “false narrative of Trump campaign collusion with Russia.”
Perhaps, like the majority of GOP senators, you decided not to burden yourself by reading The Mueller Report. If this is the case, I would like to offer some clarification. In the Executive Summary of Section 1, Mueller states:
Second, while the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges.” (p. 25 The Mueller Report, First Melville House Printing, April 2019)
Mueller goes on to detail these numerous links. I would like to remind you of a few of them:
- George Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that he was aware of the possession and willing dissemination of information damaging to the Clinton campaign by the Russian government. Papadopoulos worked with Mifsud and two Russian nationals to attempt to set up a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government. This attempt was unsuccessful. In effect, it was a failed attempt at collusion.
- Donald Trump Jr. willingly accepted a meeting with a Russian lawyer promising to offer “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort also attended this meeting. This meeting was first concealed and then mischaracterized before Donald Trump Jr. released the details. Despite a failure to get the promised “dirt,” this showed a willingness–and eagerness–for Trump Jr. to collude with the Russians.
- Paul Manafort shared internal polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a man with ties to Russian Intelligence.
- Rick Gates and Steve Bannon both testified that they believed Roger Stone had been in communication with Wikileaks while they were dumping Russian-sourced emails damaging to the Clinton campaign.
- Candidate Donald Trump openly asked the Russians to locate 30,000 missing emails from Hillary Clinton and there is evidence of Russian attempts to access Clinton accounts later that day.
Although this list is far from complete, it should be enough for anyone to see reasonable cause for an investigation into accusations of conspiracy/collusion between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. It is clearly enough to dismiss your characterization of it as a “false narrative.” It appears the only reason proof of collusion could not be determined was due to the ineptitude of those associated with the Trump Campaign.
I would also like to publicly condemn your attack on Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman in your letter to your GOP House colleagues Nunes and Jordan. Lt. Col. Vindman is a decorated veteran and a valued member of the National Security Council. He is a patriot and many of your constituents find his actions to be born of patriotism, not of betrayal as you seem to characterize it.
Let me remind you what you say in your letter. After discussing a disagreement Lt. Col. Vindman raised to a comment you made connecting support for Ukraine with opposition to Russia (a disagreement that makes little sense in light of Vindman’s testimony), you proceed to question his loyalty by saying:
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 into 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 this profile.
Quotes from the transcript of Vindman’s opening remarks and deposition reinforce this point and deserve to be highlighted. Vindman testified that an “alternative narrative” pushed by the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was “inconsistent with the consensus of views of the” relevant federal agencies and was “undermining the consensus policy.”
First, there is no evidence that Lt. Col. Vindman leaked to the press. Second, you go on to chastise Lt. Col. Vindman by pointing out that “American foreign policy is what the president determines it to be, not what the “consensus” of unelected foreign policy bureaucrats wants it to be.”
I ask you to please review your own quote of Lt. Col. Vindman and note that he never says anything in opposition to President Trump’s policy. He is clearly referring–by name–to policy being pushed by Rudy Giuliani, a person that has never been publicly authorized by any member of the U.S. government to actively promote foreign policy or represent the U.S. government in these matters. Furthermore, as a member of the National Security Council, Lt. Col. Vindman is privy to enough information by which to accurately ascertain the official position of the U.S. government in regards to Ukraine. There is ample evidence and testimony that there was a conflict between official—and known—U.S. policy regarding Ukraine and the efforts of Rudy Giuliani. Lt. Col. Vindman would have been negligent in his role had he not pointed out this conflict.
What was the conflict? As you are now well aware, in your meeting in Ukraine on September 5, 2019; also attended by Senator Chris Murphy, Senator Murphy made a similar characterization of Rudy Giuliani’s efforts as that made by Lt. Col. Vindman, and cautioned President Zelensky about getting involved in U.S. political affairs. Senator Murphy’s position was spelled out in a letter he submitted to Chairman Adam Schiff on November 19, 2019; one day after your letter was submitted to the House. In this letter, he makes it clear that his concern about Rudy Giuliani’s efforts were known to you and that he referred to them as a “back channel.”
Senator Murphy goes on to share his perception of some key aspects of this meeting:
- He was aware of the back channels reaching out to Zelensky and he urged him to “conduct relations with the United States through official channels like the U.S. embassy and congressional delegations.” This is a clear indication that Senator Murphy, like Lt. Col. Vindman, saw an “alternative narrative” to the position offered by the official channels he specifies here.
- Senator Murphy related to Zelensky that, “It would be bad for the U.S.-Ukraine relationship if he was perceived to be taking sides in a U.S. election.” This statement only makes sense if Senator Murphy and President Zelensky understood that actions requested would benefit one party and harm the other.
- Senator Murphy states, “I interpreted Zelensky’s answer to my question as a concession of the premise of my question—that he was receiving improper overtures from Giuliani to interfere in the 2020 election.” This means the “alternative narrative” being suggested by Giuliani was deemed as improper by Zelensky.
- He adds, “To me, this was confirmation that Zelensky was indeed feeling the pressure I described.”
Senator Johnson, as this conversation between Senator Murphy and President Zelensky occurred in your presence and Senator Murphy shared his concerns about Giuliani with you and Ambassador Taylor at dinner on the evening before your September 5 meeting with President Zelensky, you were clearly aware that Lt. Col. Vindman’s concerns were not unique to him and were shared by Senator Murphy, Ambassador Taylor, President Zelensky, and many others. So, it seems intentionally vindictive that, in your November 18, 2019 letter, you would take the opportunity to castigate Lt. Col. Vindman by suggesting he was trying to sabotage President Trump’s foreign policy.
You also make it a point to further chastise Lt. Col. Vindman when you say:
If any bureaucrats disagree with the president, they should use their powers of persuasion within their legal chain of command to get the president to agree with their viewpoint. In the end, if they are unable to carry out the policy of the president, they should resign.”
How would Watergate have played out if all those involved followed your suggestion? You must see that what you are suggesting is not patriotism—loyalty to country—but loyalty to the president, in opposition to the best interests of the country.
All bureaucrats have avenues available to report unethical actions outside their chain of command when they perceive an acceptance of these unethical actions within that chain of command. There is no evidence that Lt. Col. Vindman “leaked” anything, as you suggest.
Lt. Col. Vindman is a patriot and you owe him an apology. In addition to that, you owe your constituents an explanation of your deceptive and disingenuous defense of Donald Trump.
We also deserve to know what your intention was in your participation in the all-GOP trip to Moscow on July 4, 2018. As you and Senator John Neely Kennedy have become ardent defenders of Donald Trump, and both attended this meeting in Moscow, many of your constituents likely wonder, as I do, if there is a connection between this meeting and your defense of President Trump’s conduct. If the stated intent of this meeting was to warn Russia not to interfere in the 2018 mid-terms, you must agree that they did interfere in 2016. If so, why do you defend those pushing the unsubstantiated accusations that it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election?
I look forward to a response.
For your convenience, here is a list of the question that deserve explanations:
- Why have you allowed President Trump to continue to attack the actions of Joe Biden when they were consistent with your opinion and bipartisan U.S. policy at the time?
- What was the purpose of the July 4, 2018 meeting in Moscow, attended by you and other Republicans? How was this delegation selected?
- If, as reported, the purpose of this July 4 meeting was to warn the Russians to not interfere in the 2018 mid-terms, doesn’t this imply that you accept the role that Russia played in the interference in 2016? If so, why do you allow your fellow congressmen to accuse Ukraine of this interference?
- Why did you attack the character of Lt. Col. Alex Vindman for his patriotic act of reporting his concerns when you knew that many others shared the same concern?
- Do you feel you can be an impartial juror in the impeachment hearing in the Senate? If you have already come to a conclusion that President Trump did nothing inappropriate, you have decided a verdict before the trial begins. How can you assure objectivity?
If you are unable to answer these questions satisfactorily, I feel you owe it to your Wisconsin constituents to step aside for someone capable of fulfilling their duties in an ethical and honest manner.