Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, sat down with ABC News' Martha Raddatz yesterday and conceded that he has "no doubt" that Russia interfered with the U.S. elections in 2016.
Unfortunately, the Wisconsin Republican then added, "But..." From the network transcript:
"Listen, after 2016, we're doing Putin's work for him. Democrats and the media, you know, carrying the water for this false Russia hoax. Look at -- look at the disruption. Look at how distracted we all are based on a completely false narrative of Trump's campaign's collusion with Russia."You know there are some real serious questions of what happened during the FBI's investigation into that. There are serious questions about particular -- some actors with the DNC working with people in Ukraine. There are many unanswered questions. They are legitimate questions. I'm trying to get to the bottom of those things so the American public knows."
First, it's important to note from time to time that there was no "false Russia hoax." All of the available evidence, including the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, shows that Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin launched a military intelligence operation targeting U.S. elections for the express purpose of putting Donald Trump in power. Trump's operation welcomed Russia's intervention, communicated repeatedly with Russian operatives during the attack, and then lied about it.
The evidence also shows that Trump, during the investigation into these developments, repeatedly obstructed justice. Johnson really ought to know this. He is, after all, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Second, assertions about Democrats "working with people in Ukraine" is an extension of the same discredited conspiracy theory that Republicans have been repeatedly warned not to peddle -- because it's part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
In fact, the New York Times reported last month that American intelligence professionals have informed senators and their aides that Russia has engaged in a lengthy campaign "to essentially frame" Ukraine for Russia's 2016 election attack.
The same week, Dr. Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the White House National Security Council, reminded members of Congress that assertions about Ukraine targeting our elections represent a "false narrative" being "perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services."
It is, in no uncertain terms, Kremlin propaganda intended to advance Russian interests and hurt the United States.
And yet, GOP senators can't seem to help themselves. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) was surprisingly eager to promote Russian propaganda recently, and two weeks ago, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) falsely accused Ukraine of "meddling" in the American elections.
Johnson's comments yesterday, however, were a bit more entertaining, albeit unintentionally. Before promoting the debunked theory about Ukraine, the Republican senator proclaimed, "We're doing Putin's work for him."