Sens. Chris Murphy and Ron Johnson meet with Ukrainian President Zelensky in Kiev in September.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy

Washington – Sen. Chris Murphy has given Democrats conducting an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump an accounting of his September trip to Ukraine — a letter written after his Republican companion on the trip, Sen. Ron Johnson, sent GOP lawmakers his own analysis of that visit.

Johnson concluded in his Nov. 18 letter to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio,  that he views the impeachment inquiry “a continuation of a concerted, and possibly coordinated, effort to sabotage the Trump administration that probably began in earnest the day after the 2016 election.”

Murphy’s letter to Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., came to a much different conclusion.

“President Trump preyed on a vulnerable foreign nation, dependent on the United States for its very survival, and used taxpayer money as leverage to get that nation to work for the personal political benefit of the president,” Murphy wrote in a letter sent to Democratic investigators late Tuesday.

Murphy said he did not intend to contradict Johnson’s account of the trip, but rather offer “additional facts surrounding our visit to Ukraine not included in Senator Johnson’s letter and additional context.”

He said he wanted to travel to Ukraine with Johnson because the Trump administration neglected to send a bipartisan delegation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration.

He also said he wanted to travel to Kiev because of concerns about Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s “shadow foreign policy operation in Ukraine,” which included efforts to persuade the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

During that early September trip to Kiev, Murphy said he raised concerns about Giuliani’s actions to U.S. ambassador William Taylor, who has testified in the impeachment inquiry about the effect Giuliani’s campaign was having on the nation’s Ukraine policy.

Sens. Chris Murphy and Ron Johnson meet with Ukrainian President Zelensky in Kiev in September.

Murphy said Taylor’s response was, “It’s a problem.”

Murphy also said Taylor discussed Trump’s holdup of U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

“The next day, I pulled Taylor aside to tell him that I planned to raise the Giuliani issue with Zelensky, and advise the new president to stay clear of internal U.S. politics,” Murphy wrote. “Taylor’s response was to encourage me to raise this issue with Zelensky, noting that no official of the U.S. delegation had raised the concern with the president directly. He said he would be very interested to hear Zelensky’s response.”

In his letter, Johnson said Zelensky never said that he felt pressure to provide the United States with anything in return for aid.

Johnson said in his letter that “at no time during this meeting—or any other meeting on this trip—was there any mention by Zelensky or any Ukrainian that they were feeling pressure to do anything in return for the military aid.”

On Wednesday, during the House Intelligence Committee questioning of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Jordan raised Johnson’s letter as further proof Zelensky was not pressured.

But Murphy had a different interpretation of Zelensky’s response.

He said he “broached the topic of the pressure on Zelensky from Rudy Giuliani and the president’s other emissaries to launch an investigation into Trump’s political rivals – namely the Bidens” and urged him to resist becoming “an actor in U.S. domestic politics.”

“President Zelensky said he understood, and represented to us that he had no desire to interfere in a U.S. election,” Murphy wrote.

“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,” Murphy added. “He did not contradict the facts I laid out in my question … to me, this was confirmation that Zelensky was indeed feeling the pressure I described.”

In his letter, Johnson questioned the credibility of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine specialist with the National Security Council, who testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

Johnson said he was concerned Vindman was disloyal because he disagreed with Trump administration policy and said Vindman may belong to a group of U.S. officials who are intent on “sabotaging” Trump policies and removing the president from office.

Murphy wrote that “public servants undoubtedly have moments when they disagreed with administration policy,” but are bound to carry out that policy if they have exhausted appeals through “internal mechanisms.”

“That is why the most disturbing element of Senator Johnson’s letter was his assertion that certain administration staffers, most notably Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, may be actually working to “sabotage” the president’s foreign agenda, despite having no actual evidence of such sabotage,” Murphy wrote.

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Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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5 Comments

  1. Johnson, who was with Murphy and Zelensky, told reporters that he told the Ukrainian president that the “primary rationale” for Trump’s decision to withhold aid was lack of investment from other European countries.

  2. Johnson, who was with Murphy and Zelensky, told reporters that he told the Ukrainian president that the “primary rationale” for Trump’s decision to withhold aid was lack of investment from other European countries.

  3. Presidents have every right and obligation to expect corruption to be resolved in any country we provide aid to. The Biden’s have no one but themselves to blame for having been part of that corruption. Case closed.

    Murphy’s opinion is, similar to all the Democrats witnesses, not fact based and biased.

    1. You do realize that there is zero evidence of the Biden’s being involved in corruption in both Ukraine and China? Just because lies propagated by this administration are continually repeated by fox and the GOP doesn’t mean they’re true. The administration held up Congressionally-approved military aid illegally, end of story.

  4. Again there has to be a transcript to these meetings. Where is it? The “Career Diplomats” all said they took notes during these meetings but this one meeting seems to be different for some reason. Partisan politics as both senators have different versions of the same event? And would not this also be considered foreign interference when Murphy told the foreign president to stay out of American politics or else? Yet when the former Vice President brags about holding money over the previous foreign presidents head that was ok? Sounds like politics as usual to me.

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