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A sacred duty

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson must be a tortured soul. The Wisconsin senator is a friend of Ukraine. He is chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation. The senator also serves as one of four vice chairs of the Senate Ukraine Caucus. Thus, when Johnson heard in the press that military aid to Ukraine had been blocked, he, along with other senators, fired off a Sept. 3 letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney calling for the aid to go forward. “The funds designated for the Ukraine Security Assurance Initiative have... helped Ukraine develop the independent military capabilities and skills necessary to fend off the Kremlin’s continued onslaughts within its territory,” read the letter.

At the same time, Johnson supports President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican, and has stalwartly protected the president as the Ukrainian scandal has unfolded. Infamously, Johnson launched into a mad rant on Meet the Press when host Chuck Todd asked him why he “winced” when told that Trump had held up military aid as leverage to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into his leading Democratic political rival, Joe Biden. Dodging the question, an angry Johnson complained a biased media has sabotaged the Trump presidency from day one. Johnson said Trump “vehemently, angrily” denied any quid pro quo deal with the Ukrainian president.

But Johnson’s double game of defending Ukraine and Trump is quickly finding an end. Evidence of presidential wrongdoing mounts each day. This past week, Bill Taylor, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, told the House Intelligence Committee that, yes, indeed, there had been a quid pro quo. Taylor said Trump demanded Zelensky publicly announce an investigation into the Bidens in exchange for the vital military aid and a visit to the White House.

As the Ukrainian fiasco rolls out, Johnson’s statements have become a mess of double speak. In early September, Johnson met personally with Zelensky, asked about the frozen military aid, and, according to the senator, the Ukrainian president never said he felt pressure about not receiving the military shipments. But then Johnson told reporters this month he had asked Trump whether he was free to tell Zelensky that the military aid was forthcoming--and Trump said no. Johnson has told reporters he doesn’t favor any president pressuring foreign governments to launch investigations into political rivals. Johnson now says, however, Trump has every right to get other governments to investigate Biden. “If there’s potential criminal activity, the president of the United States is our chief law enforcement officer,” the senator said.

What is this tangled series of conflicting comments? What we hear is a senator desperately trying to maintain dual loyalties, but failing. The senator’s credibility wanes with every embarrassing, nonsensical contradiction.

The senator should at this critical juncture think about the voters of Wisconsin. They sent Johnson to Washington, D.C. What they want him to do is simple. They want Johnson to help run the federal government, protect the county and, above all, uphold the Constitution. They didn’t elect him to run defense for a wayward president.

We don’t say that Johnson has an easy road here. But it’s not too late for the senator. Johnson still can do the right thing and uphold his oath of office.

He must follow the high road. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the nation’s top Ukraine expert on the National Security Counsel, outlined this moral roadmap in his statement to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

“I am a patriot and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country irrespective of party or politics,” said the veteran.

This is exactly what Sen. Johnson needs to do now.