Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has served as one of Donald Trump’s most outspoken defenders in the scandal over the attempt to leverage military aid to Ukraine in exchange for attacks by that country’s government on Trump’s potential 2020 Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
On Sunday, Johnson got into a heated exchange with Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, an interview that at one point saw the normally mild-mannered Todd shouting Johnson down on live TV. In the interview, Johnson stated that he had no trust in U.S. intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and CIA, as The Daily Beast reported.
“Do you not trust the FBI? Do you not trust the CIA?” Todd asked about the intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. The 64-year-old, second-term Wisconsin GOP senator replied that he “absolutely” did not trust these agencies, adding that he did not even trust them before the 2016 election, as quoted by The Daily Beast.
But even as Johnson followed Trump’s lead in apparently diverting blame from Russia for the 2016 election sabotage that was designed to help Trump win the election, as the intelligence agencies concluded, what neither he nor Todd mentioned was the senator’s own, seemingly cozy relationship with Russia.
Johnson was one in a group of Republican Senators who visited Moscow in 2018, spending the Fourth of July holiday in Russia. Their Independence Day trip was the first such visit by American lawmakers to Russia in five years.
In Moscow, Johnson and the other Republicans met with Russian officials in a “secret room,” according to report by the 100-year-old Russian newspaper Moskovskij Komsomolets, or MKRU. The MKRU report was posted to Twitter by journalist and Russian media expert Julia Davis.
WATCH: @SenRonJohnson is asked why he winced & brings up a "conspiracy theory."@chucktodd: "I have no idea why we're going here. … Can we please answer the question I asked you instead of trying to make Donald Trump feel better here that you're not criticizing him?" #MTP pic.twitter.com/41i7WPHQlF
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) October 6, 2019
“The meetings of American guests in both chambers of the Russian parliament were surrounded by a veil of secrecy,” MKRU reported, adding that journalists who attempted to cover the visit were allowed only to hear the general remarks from Johnson and seven other GOP senators before and after the secret meetings, remarks that were “rather brief and devoid of specifics.”
The Republicans, according to MKRU, met with Sergei Lavrov, the longtime Russian Foreign Minister and close confidant of President Vladimir Putin. Lavrov was one of the two Russian officials, who, in May of 2017, met with Trump behind closed doors in the Oval Office, in a surprise visit. During that meeting, Trump disclosed highly classified information to the Russians about intelligence operations against the terrorist group ISIS in Syria, as The Inquisitr reported.
“I’m sure it has nothing to do with Johnson spending the 4th of July in Russia and declaring that Russian (election) interference was no biggie,” Julia Davis remarked, commenting via Twitter on Johnson’s declaration of distrust in the FBI and CIA.