Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, blamed Democrats for weakening Ukraine by impeaching former President Donald Trump, a claim that was met with considerable derision.
Speaking on Fox News, Johnson said Americans "need to remember what led up to" Russian President Vladimir Putin's move to invade Ukraine, falsely asserting that Ukraine was a "pawn" in the "impeachment travesty" he says was orchestrated by Democratic House leadership.
Although Johnson acknowledged that Putin deserves to have the blame for the "atrocities" committed by Russian forces fall "squarely on his shoulders," he nonetheless suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative Adam Schiff, and star impeachment witness Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman weakened Ukraine on the world stage.
You can hear what Johnson said in the video below.
Johnson's remarks represent a brazen attempt to rewrite both the history and context of former President Trump's first impeachment, which was initiated in part because he'd encouraged Ukrainian leadership to investigate then-candidate Joe Biden for “political dirt” he could wield against his opponent.
Trump was ultimately acquitted by the Senate in early 2020 following a highly contentious trial and he touted the acquittal as a sign of his innocence in the matter, which he has claimed, without evidence, was a Democratic plot to topple his presidency.
Johnson nonetheless doubled down on his remarks after Schiff, who represents California, noted that it had been Trump who demanded that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy do him the "favor" of investigating Biden or risk losing vital military aid.
He accused Schiff of making Ukraine "vulnerable" during Trump's term in office when he stressed that Russia had interfered in the 2016 general election.
However, Johnson's characterization of the conclusion that Russian actors worked to subvert the electoral process.
Trump has continuously dismissed the assessment from U.S. intelligence it was confident Russia was behind the hacks of internal records at the Democratic and Republican National Committees and has suggested the conclusion of Russian interference was politically motivated.
However, then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report was quite damning.
While the report did not find sufficient evidence the Trump campaign "coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities" to level its own charges, it stated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was illegal and the Trump campaign welcomed and encouraged these efforts.
The report also found Trump tried many times to obstruct the investigation, but his associates often "refused to carry out his orders."
Johnson's remarks were swiftly condemned and many accused Johnson, who was among a group of prominent Republicans who were criticized for spending 2018 Independence Day festivities in Moscow, of being a Russian asset.
Johnson has continued to defend Trump despite the considerable scrutiny he has faced since the Ukraine scandal first broke.
Vindman, for his part, has gone on record calling Trump Putin's "useful idiot" and "an unwitting agent of Putin" since providing testimony that Trump attempted to coerce Ukraine and other foreign nations into undermining Biden's candidacy.