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Johnson Defends Trump, Criticizes News Media On ‘Meet The Press’

Wisconsin's Republican Senator Says President Denied Ukraine Aid Had Been Held Up Until Country Agreed To Conduct Investigations

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson
Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, says there is nothing improper with President Donald Trump calling on the Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, in Madison, Wisconsin. Johnson says it is common for foreign governments to provide information to U.S. law enforcement agencies. Scott Bauer/AP Photo

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson used a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to defend President Donald Trump over the Ukraine investigation and to criticize both news media and intelligence officials.

Democrats are investigating whether the president sought quid-pro-quo by withholding military aid while pressing Ukraine to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Johnson has been speaking about Ukraine since Friday, when he gave details of his conversations with Trump and other administration officials related to the country.

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The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Friday that Johnson said he was blocked by Trump in August from telling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that U.S. aid was on the way. Johnson said the president was looking at withholding aid because he wanted to know “what happened in 2016.”

He also told the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, had told him the president would release military aid to Ukraine once he was satisfied the country would appoint a prosecutor to “get to the bottom of what happened in 2016.”

Johnson said Friday that “at that suggestion, I winced. My reaction was, ‘Oh God. I don’t wanna see those two things combined.’”

On Sunday, the senator told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd that he’d raised his concerns over Sondland’s claims directly to the president.

“When I asked the president about that, he completely denied it,” Johnson said. “He adamantly denied it. He vehemently, angrily denied it. He said, ‘I’d never do that.’ That is the piece of the puzzle I’m here to report today.”

Johnson called Todd’s framing of the Ukraine issue “very biased” and said, “Unlike the narrative of the press, that President Trump wants to dig up dirt on his 2020 opponent, what he wants is, he wants an accounting of what happened in 2016. Who set him up? Did things spring from Ukraine?”

The president has suggested, without evidence, that Ukraine may have been connected to hacking aimed at influencing that election.

Todd asked Johnson whether he believed Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign, and the senator said, “They absolutely did. And I don’t know to what extent the Ukrainians did.”

When Todd asked Johnson “Do you not trust the FBI? You don’t trust the CIA?” Johnson began by saying, “No, no, I don’t. Absolutely not. After Peter Strzok and Lisa Page? After James Comey, Peter Strzok, John Brennan?”

When asked whether he trusted the same agencies now, Johnson reiterated his earlier statement, saying “I don’t trust Andrew McCabe. I don’t trust James Comey. I don’t trust Pe–Peter Strzok. I don’t trust John Brennan.”