Will the House trade Adam Schiff for Ron Johnson, more in terms of hot seats than seats in the chamber? The House Democrats’ inquiry process has put pressure on their Republican counterparts to demand testimony from the Wisconsin senator, resulting in a “reluctant” letter from Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan asking for his cooperation with the probe. Johnson told Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday that he wouldn’t appear in person, but that he would submit a written response.
“They’re not going to call me,” Johnson tells Todd, “because certainly Adam Schiff wouldn’t want to be called by the Senate.” Is Johnson offering a quid pro quo to Schiff … or a warning?
CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you this last question … about partisanship. Why shouldn’t, why shouldn’t viewers assume that you’re looking at President Trump through a Republican lens here because you were already much tougher, ready to go to, ready to go to impeachment on Hillary Clinton with no evidence that anything that happened with that server somehow got into foreigners’ hands, when we actually had evidence regarding what happened at the DNC?
SENATOR RON JOHNSON: So, I guess what I suggest, Chuck, is I got a letter last night from Representatives Jordan and Nunes asking for basically my telling of events. I’ll be working on that today. So, I will lay out what I know in terms of this and —
CHUCK TODD: So, are you going to testify?
SENATOR RON JOHNSON: — to a certain extent, some of my perspective. Now, you know, they’re not going to call me because certainly Adam Schiff wouldn’t want to be called by the Senate. There’s going to be a separation there. But I think I will reply to that and I’ll supply my telling of events, which is difficult to do in eight or ten minutes on a show like this.
Here’s the letter to which Johnson refers. Note the references that Nunes and Jordan make repeatedly to due process, the whistleblower, and the general unfairness of the process. None of that has to do directly with Johnson or the need for his testimony, but the implication is that all of this is forcing Republicans to find other means to get exculpatory evidence into the record:
In a letter to Sen. Johnson, Reps. Jordan and Nunes "reluctantly write to request any firsthand information you have about President Trump’s actions toward Ukraine between April and September 2019." pic.twitter.com/ge93iaul5X
— Jeremy Herb (@jeremyherb) November 18, 2019
This is a rather strange request in any case. Johnson has to serve as a juror if the House moves to impeach Donald Trump. How does having Johnson testify in the House undermine his role as juror in the Senate? We’re in uncharted territory in many ways with this impeachment inquiry, and this may be one of the less impactful ways, but it’s still going to look strange.
Johnson’s mention of Schiff is yet another strange development. It’s been hinted strongly that any Senate trial would result in a Republican attempt to subpoena Schiff over his shifting stories about contacts with the whistleblower. Johnson’s mention here of that possibility could be read one of two ways. Either Johnson’s appealing for professional courtesy between the two congressional chambers, or he’s offering an indemnity against such a subpoena if Schiff leaves him out of this. Does Johnson have enough influence on Senate Republicans to cut that kind of a deal?
What does Johnson plan to say in his written response? Pretty much what we already knew from Johnson’s previous public statements. Johnson told Todd that the delay was in part due to a lack of focus caused by disaster recovery issues, and that Trump had signaled to him that the funds would be released soon in an August 31 call between the two:
What I also know is when I, when I sprung that on President Trump in my August 31st phone call, he completely denied there was any kind of, any kind of arrangement that Ukraine had to do something before he’d release that funding. And this is what has not been reported from that phone call. At the tail end — It was a pretty long phone call. We talked about a bunch of other things, but at the very end he wrapped it up by saying, “You know, Ron, I’ve got a hurricane I have to deal with, but I hear what you’re saying. We’re reviewing this. I think you’re going to like my decision.” So, he was already leaning toward providing that funding on August 31st. My guess is that this never would have been exposed, that funding would have been restored, and our relationship with Ukraine would be far better off than it is today.
That won’t be enough to convince House Democrats, but it will certainly shore up Republicans in both the House and Senate. However, the unusual step of seeking Johnson’s testimony at all will keep raising questions about the process adopted by Schiff and the curious stampede to impeachment over aid that got delivered in the end without any quid pro quo at all.