Sen. Ron Johnson says he's 'sympathetic' to Trump rationale for freezing Ukraine aid

Source: Politico | November 10, 2019 | Caitlin Oprysko

He says he never heard the president tie the freeze to an investigation into the Bidens.

President Donald Trump came under significant pressure to release military aid for Ukraine, Sen. Ron Johnson said Sunday.

Even so, the Wisconsin Republican told CNN’s “State of the Union” he remains “sympathetic” to Trump’s stated reasons for doing so.

Johnson said he believed Trump’s preoccupation with eliciting more military aid for Ukraine from its European neighbors was a “legitimate” concern.

Trump has offered differing explanations for his decision to pause hundreds of millions in military aid meant for assisting the country in its conflict with Russia, arguing he wanted to ensure newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky was serious about his campaign pledge to root out corruption but also complaining that European countries were not contributing enough in his view.

That rationale, Johnson claimed, was what “he had consistently been providing to me and I think other people in his administration of why he had serious reservations — and I would say legitimate reservations — about providing hard-earned tax dollars for Ukraine.”

But multiple U.S. officials have testified over the past month that Trump and his allies made clear the release of the aid was dependent on Ukraine announcing investigations into the Biden family and events surrounding the 2016 election — and that testimony is now at the heart of an ongoing impeachment inquiry.

Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, acknowledged Trump was resistant to relinquishing the funds, telling anchor Jake Tapper that “a lot of us were trying to put that pressure on” Trump to unfreeze the aid.

“But again, I remain sympathetic with President Trump’s legitimate concerns about the corruption — when you’re going to provide hundreds of million dollars of hard-earned American taxpayer dollars into a system, you want to make sure it’s not corrupt,” he added.

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