On Tuesday, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) appeared on Fox News to declare that a text message he had seen between fired FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page was a smoking gun that proved there was a “secret society” within the Federal Bureau of Investigation dedicated to bringing down President Donald Trump. By Thursday, however, when the text had been revealed by ABC News to appear to be harmless banter between the pair, Johnson was forced to admit to the “real possibility” that the text was a joke.
Naturally, Twitter pundits were very happy to pounce on the news, heaping scorn on Johnson and the other Republican congressmen pushing the “secret society” conspiracy.
This latest controversy actually began several months back when the Robert Mueller investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and members of the Trump administration to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election announced that agent Peter Strzok was being fired after it was discovered that he had sent text messages insulting to the president. Republican members of both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, who are also investigating the Trump-Russia scandal, then asked to see the texts in question to determine if there was an anti-Trump bias in the FBI. The FBI released some texts to the committees but announced that texts from a five-month period were “lost.” According to a report from CNN, this alarmed Republican members of the House Committee, such as Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who were proponents of the theory that there was a “deep state” coup being attempted by members of the intelligence services to unseat President Trump. The FBI has said that the texts were “lost” due to a “glitch” in the system.
Donald Trump himself commented on the missing emails, tweeting it was “one of the biggest stories in a long time.”
With all this as backdrop, Senator Johnson, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, appeared on Fox News to say he had seen one of the texts that proved beyond a doubt that there was a “secret society” within the FBI. According to an ABC News report, Johnson also claimed to have a “whistleblower” witness who could corroborate this “secret society.” The report goes on to say that Johnson refused to release the text, which was sent the day after Trump was elected president in November 2016.
On Wednesday, ABC News released an actual transcript of the full text message, which apparently refers to a Putin calendar.
“Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society.”
On Thursday, in an interview with CNN’s Manu Raja, Senator Johnson backed down from his claim that the text proves there is an FBI “secret society,” saying “it’s a real possibility” that the text could have been intended in jest. He also declined to name the “whistleblower” he claims corroborated the story.
Twitter reaction was fast and furious, with some inviting followers to “secret society” meetings and others demanding an apology from Johnson and other Republicans who promoted the conspiracy. You can see some of the best ones below.
Psst..."Secret Society" meeting at 7:30 pm tonight. You know where. Pass it on. pic.twitter.com/PJCMrIwNh2— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) January 25, 2018
Other than Devin Nunes -who must have been dropped on his head as a baby- is anyone seriously stupid enough to think trained US intelligence officers would be stupid enough to refer to a secret society, as a “secret society”? They need to come up with a better conspiracy. Really.— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) January 25, 2018
Does Wisconsin have recall petitions for US Senators who falsely claim a secret society exists within the FBI that is planning a coup against the president of the United States? Just curious.— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) January 25, 2018
FUN FACT: The GOP's "Secret Society" scandal didn't even last one Scaramucci.— Tea Pain (@TeaPainUSA) January 25, 2018
I don't know about you guys, but if I was in the FBI and running a 'secret society," one of the first things I would do is use my smartphone to text another FBI agent about the secret society, using the phrase "secret society' to describe it.— Brian Krassenstein???? (@krassenstein) January 25, 2018
The most recent news, according to a report by The Hill, is that the Department of Justice says it has found the missing text messages and is releasing them to the House and Senate Committees.