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No, Speaker Johnson Didn’t Cave On Ukraine Funding Because Of Secret Intel Briefings

Speaker Johnson
Image CreditABC News/YouTube

He caved because he’s weak and unprincipled and, like the rest of the GOP establishment, doesn’t care what Republican voters think.


Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson is now being feted by the likes of Politico and The New York Times for selling out Republican voters and working with Democrats to pass a foreign aid package last week that will send tens of billions more taxpayer dollars to Ukraine.

If you recall, this is something Johnson repeatedly vowed he would not do until Democrats agreed to secure the southern border. He said this over and over, both before and after he became speaker. 

So what explains Johnson’s about-face? According to a fawning piece in Politico, it was “sobering briefings” he received after becoming speaker. “It was the intelligence, it was the Europe generals who are in charge of the freedom of the world and of course it was the developments as well, everything has escalated,” he told the outlet.

Johnson gave a similar line to the Times: “I really do believe the intel. I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed. I think he might go to the Baltics next. I think he might have a showdown with Poland or one of our NATO allies.” He said the same thing to CNN’s Jake Tapper last week, that he wants to make sure Putin “doesn’t march through Europe.” (Notice now that Johnson has helped pass the Democrats’ agenda, he’s become a darling of the corporate press, complete with an in-depth puff profile just published in The Atlantic.)

Never mind that the Putin-will-march-through-Europe line was hard to believe when it was trotted out over two years ago. Today it’s preposterous and indefensible — and no one really believes it. Events on the ground have demonstrated pretty conclusively that Moscow cannot even secure all the territory it claims to have annexed in eastern Ukraine, let alone march on Poland or other NATO members.

So what exactly did Johnson find out in these classified briefings? How did he go into a SCIF (a secure facility used for classified briefings) with one set of priorities and come out with a completely different one? Did he learn that Ukraine was running out of weapons? We’ve all known that for some time now (the Pentagon said exactly that in January). Did he learn that military recruitment in Ukraine was collapsing? That’s been widely reported for months. You don’t need a SCIF or a sit-down with the CIA to know any of that. You just need to follow the news.

Maybe, then, it was something worse, that Moscow is planning to use a nuclear weapon of some kind. If, as Politico put it, “It only took a higher level of intelligence briefings, granted to congressional leaders, for him to pick up that old Cold War hymnal,” then Johnson should come out and explain as much to the American people. We’re all adults, we can handle it, and we deserve to know where our billions are going and why.

That’s the crux of it. If what Johnson learned in his intelligence briefings was so dire, so terrifying, that he went from opposing $300 million for Ukraine in September to happily giving $61 billion for the country last week, then he needs to come out and explain himself. Because that’s a hell of a 180 to pull on an issue that has deeply divided the Republican Party (a majority of Johnson’s own conference voted against his foreign aid package).

But suppose Johnson did find out something in the SCIF, some new intelligence about an apocalyptic threat that changed his entire perspective on the war and inspired him to repudiate his past views on America’s role. The proper response in that case would have been to immediately fix the border so Congress could address this new threat, just as he had promised his constituents he would.

Yet Johnson did nothing about the border. He just pretended he had never made those promises and pushed ahead for Ukraine funding, throwing away whatever leverage he had with Democrats to help secure the border.

It’s actually worse than that. He didn’t just fail to deliver on his repeated promises to secure the border before sending more aid to Ukraine, but his foreign aid package will make the border crisis worse. Included in the bill was roughly $4 billion for “migration and refugee assistance,” which is doled out to NGOs operating along the border and tasked with giving funds and travel assistance to illegal immigrants who have been released from federal custody. In other words, Johnson isn’t just neglecting the border crisis, he’s actively funding it. 

By doing so, Johnson has managed to give Democrats exactly what they wanted on Ukraine and the border, while giving Republican voters nothing except a proverbial middle finger, especially since Johnson refuses even to acknowledge that he’s changed his tune and gone back on his word.

It’s much more likely that this narrative about classified intel briefings swaying Johnson’s view is just that: a ridiculous story cooked up by the permanent bureaucracy in D.C. and dutifully trotted out by the regime press to explain away Johnson’s duplicity and make him look like a serious statesman.

The simplest explanation for Johnson’s duplicity, however, is not some secret briefing that’s so terrifying no one can know about it, but that Johnson is a feckless, easily manipulated creature of Washington who was wholly unprepared, as speaker, to fight for Republican voters and serve their interests. 

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