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Johnson sees ‘cognitive decline’ in Biden, open to impeachment

Speaker Mike Johnson gave his first national interview on Thursday night. And the Louisiana Republican made more news than he probably meant to.

Johnson agreed with Fox News host Sean Hannity’s suggestion that President Joe Biden had suffered “cognitive decline,” a surprising comment given that the speaker had just met the president for the first time Thursday.

Johnson also sounded open to moving ahead with the Biden impeachment inquiry.

And the new speaker made clear he wants to separate any new money for Ukraine from aid to Israel, a position that puts him on a collision course with Biden, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and pro-Ukraine Republicans.

This will be among the big challenges for Johnson. He’s now a national figure, the highest-ranking Republican in the country. Everything he says will be parsed throughout Washington and even internationally. So there will be some adjustment for him.

Here’s the Hannity-Johnson exchange on Biden’s mental condition:

Johnson may not see it as a personal insult, but we’re pretty sure the White House will.

On Ukraine, Johnson was asked about splitting off $61 billion in new aid for Ukraine sought by Biden from the $14 billion requested for Israel. Johnson backs that approach — a huge problem for pro-Ukraine lawmakers — but he gave a nuanced answer worth exploring.

“I told the staff at the White House today that our consensus among House Republicans is we need to bifurcate those issues,” Johnson declared of Ukraine and Israel funding.

Johnson said Reps. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and other GOP lawmakers have drafted a document with “12 critical questions for the White House to answer as a condition for additional support” for Ukraine. Johnson gave this document to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who is “studying it.”

Johnson even considering Ukraine aid is something of a victory for the White House.

Johnson, though, said House Republicans would move a $14 billion standalone bill for Israel. They’ll cut spending somewhere else to offset the cost of this package, another change.

And finally on impeachment, Johnson — a former member of the Judiciary Committee — made it sound like he believed that Biden had accepted bribes from foreign sources doing business with Hunter and James Biden, the president’s son and brother.

“Because if, in fact, all the evidence leads to where we believe that it will, that’s very likely impeachable offenses,” Johnson said.

— John Bresnahan

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