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New York Times: “Johnson, an evangelical Christian, knelt and prayed for guidance” on Ukraine funding

“I want to be on the right side of history,” Speaker Mike Johnson reportedly told the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, explaining his decision to champion a $60 aid bill for Ukraine despite previously opposing efforts to fund Kyiv’s war effort.
US House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: CNN
New York Times: “Johnson, an evangelical Christian, knelt and prayed for guidance” on Ukraine funding

The New York Times reports that for weeks after the Senate passed a sprawling aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, Speaker Mike Johnson agonized over whether and how the House would take up funding legislation that would almost certainly infuriate the right wing of his party and could cost him his job.

According to the report, he huddled with top national security officials, including William J. Burns, the CIA director, in the Oval Office to discuss classified intelligence. He also met repeatedly with broad factions of Republicans in both swing and deep red districts and considered their voters’ attitudes toward funding Ukraine.

“When his plan to work with Democrats to clear the way for aiding Ukraine met with an outpouring of venom from ultraconservatives already threatening to depose him, Johnson, an evangelical Christian, knelt and prayed for guidance,” the report says.

The Times reports that Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, recalled the speaker telling him, “I want to be on the right side of history.” Johnson’s decision to risk his speakership to push the $95 billion foreign aid bill through the House on 20 April was the culmination of a remarkable personal and political arc for the Louisiana Republican, according to the article.

The report states that Johnson had largely opposed efforts to fund Kyiv’s war effort. He said he would never allow the matter to come to a vote until his party’s border demands were met. However, by the time he made clear he planned to band together with Democrats to muscle through the aid package over the objections of many in his party, Johnson was speaking a starkly different language, according to the article.

The Times quotes Johnson as saying, “History judges us for what we do. This is a critical time right now. I could make a selfish decision and do something that’s different. But I’m doing here what I believe to be the right thing. I think providing lethal aid to Ukraine right now is critically important.”

The report states that Johnson attributed his turnabout in part to the intelligence briefings he received, a striking assertion from a leader of a party that has embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s deep mistrust of the intelligence community.

The Times quotes Johnson as saying, “I really do believe the intel. I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if allowed. I think he might go to the Baltics next. He might have a showdown with Poland or one of our NATO allies.”

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