Sen. Ron Johnson this week said his probe of Obama-era intelligence agencies would help President Donald Trump win reelection, igniting fury from Democrats who say it was an explicit admission he’s using his committee to damage Joe Biden’s candidacy for president.
“The more that we expose of the corruption of the transition process between Obama and Trump, the more we expose of the corruption within those agencies, I would think it would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden,” Johnson said in a little-noticed Tuesday interview with Minneapolis-based radio hosts Jon Justice and Drew Lee.
Democrats compared the remark to comments made in 2015 by House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who boasted that the Republican-led Benghazi investigation was successful because it had helped tank Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. Facing sharp criticism, McCarthy later walked back those comments.
As Election Day approaches, Johnson has found himself besieged by the left and the right, distrusted by some intelligence officials and facing allegations that his committee has partly relied on information obtained from a Ukrainian lawmaker whom the U.S. intelligence community has now deemed a tool of a Russian election interference effort. (Johnson says he hasn’t received anything from the lawmaker, Andrii Derkach). Johnson, who claims he’s being targeted for destruction by Democrats and the press, also hinted in one Tuesday radio interview that he had some friction with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who he said had “sidelined” him at one point during his investigation.
Asked about Johnson’s comment, McConnell aides said it would be up to Johnson to elaborate. A source close to Johnson said McConnell’s decision to tap the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election — combined with the lengthy investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller — “made obtaining documents and information very difficult.” The source noted that McConnell had voiced general support for aiming subpoenas at former Obama administration officials.
In short, Johnson increasingly finds himself on an island while presiding over a politically loaded investigation less than 100 days before the election. The contours of his investigation are a bit blurry, overlapping with a similar probe into alleged intelligence community abuses by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, even as Johnson vows to ramp it up and issue a full report on his findings in September.
Trump has repeatedly encouraged investigations into former President Barack Obama, claiming without evidence that Obama committed grave crimes against Trump’s incoming administration. Trump dubbed the alleged scandal “Obamagate” but has offered no details to support allegations that Obama committed any wrongdoing.
Johnson is also pursuing widely discredited allegations that Biden engineered the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor to shield his son Hunter from a corruption probe. At the time, Hunter was serving on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, a conflict that several Obama-era officials said presented the appearance of a conflict of interest even if they saw no evidence of wrongdoing.
A series of State Department officials told Congress during impeachment proceedings against Trump that Ukraine’s top prosecutor at the time, Viktor Shokin, was an impediment to anti-corruption efforts and Biden’s push to remove him was part of the U.S. government and international community’s efforts to root out bad actors in Ukraine. Shokin’s ouster made it more likely — not less — that Burisma would face a serious investigation, witnesses said.
The latest indications of pent-up anger on the right that Johnson’s probe hasn’t gone far enough came during a contentious radio interview Wednesday with the usually friendly conservative host Hugh Hewitt, who told Johnson he had “failed” in his investigation by declining to subpoena key Obama-era figures like FBI Director James Comey and CIA Director John Brennan. During an occasionally heated 10-minute exchange, Johnson attributed his pace to resistance from multiple Republicans on his committee, who he said could block him from issuing subpoenas.
More at the link above. Hugs