Sen. Ron Johnson, in a combative TV interview Sunday, said he doesn’t trust the FBI and CIA, and pushed Republican talking points defending President Trump amid an impeachment inquiry into his attempt to leverage Ukraine to investigate a political opponent.
Johnson accused the FBI and CIA of being somehow involved in trying to undermine Trump during the 2016 presidential election. He made a similar claim in January 2018, referring to a “secret society” within the FBI, but walked that statement back after more information became available.
“I’ve never seen a president’s administration be sabotaged from the day after election,” Johnson said Sunday.
Similar to his 2018 comments, Johnson said he is concerned about unearthed text messages from Peter Strzok, a former FBI counterintelligence agent in the Hillary Clinton email and Russia investigations, who texted inflammatory comments about Trump to Lisa Page, a former FBI lawyer who also worked on those investigations.
Some Republican Trump supporters have pointed to the texts as evidence that the Russian investigation was a “deep state” conspiracy to discredit Trump if he won the 2016 election.
“That is why Trump is so upset,” Johnson said. “He had this false narrative that resulted in him being set up by (former FBI director) James Comey.”
Johnson’s comments in a clamorous Sunday interview on NBC’s Meet the Press came just days after the Oshkosh Republican revealed he had learned of a possible quid pro quo involving Trump from a top U.S. official but that the president had denied it to him.
Johnson told the Wall Street Journal last week he “winced” when he learned about the possible quid pro quo, but when Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd asked why he winced, he launched into his Trump defense.
Johnson last week also told reporters that Trump blocked him from telling Ukraine’s president that U.S. aid to the eastern European nation was on its way.
Trump is the subject of an impeachment inquiry from House Democrats over a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in which the two leaders discussed U.S. military aid and Trump asked for a “favor,” namely Ukraine investigating the origins of the Russia investigation as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
In Sunday’s interview, Johnson appeared to believe Trump’s version of events that he was not trying to damage Biden.
“That is the piece of the puzzle I’m here to report today, that unlike the narrative of the press President Trump wants to dig up dirt on his 2020 opponent, what he wants is an accounting of what happened in 2016, who set him up, did things spring from Ukraine?”
Last week, Johnson revealed he had a piece of the impeachment story to tell, revealing that the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, told him that aid to Ukraine was tied to Trump’s request to have Ukraine undertake investigations related to the 2016 U.S. elections.
Johnson said Trump in an Aug. 31 phone call rejected the idea he directed his staff to make military aid to Ukraine contingent on a new investigation by that country. Johnson in his Sunday interview added Trump “vehemently, angrily denied it.”
Johnson said Trump told him he was considering withholding military aid because of alleged corruption in the 2016 election. That, Johnson added, could include possible election interference by Ukraine.
Johnson, when asked, said he does not trust the CIA or FBI.
“No, no I don’t, absolutely not,” he said.
Johnson, when asked, said he believes Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and that Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was not “framed.” Manafort was convicted of bank and tax fraud related to his work for a political candidate in Ukraine.