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Ron Johnson speaks at the start of a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on the government's response to the COVID-19 outbreak on March 5, 2020 in Washington, DC.Samuel Corum / Getty Images

Ron Johnson’s memory proves faulty on Clinton, Trump

Donald Trump, brazenly and repeatedly, tried to get the Justice Department to go after his political foes. Ron Johnson doesn't remember any of this?


After the FBI executed a court-approved search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s Republican allies tried to peddle all kinds of odd talking points, many of which dealt with Hillary Clinton. Take Rep. Michael Waltz, for example.

Last August, the Republican congressman from Florida told Fox News, in all seriousness, that after Trump became president, he made a conscious choice to leave his 2016 opponent alone.

“President Trump took that approach. He said, ’You know what, we’re not going to prosecute Hillary Clinton,’” Waltz said, as if reality had no meaning. The GOP lawmaker added, “[Trump] said, ‘You know what, let’s move on. Let’s move forward.’”

That wasn’t even close to resembling reality, but the line hasn’t disappeared. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin tried the same tack during a Fox News appearance a couple of days ago:

“President Ford decided it was best for America not to pursue prosecution against President Nixon. President Trump pretty much made the same decision and decided not to pursue any kind of prosecution of Hillary Clinton. Joe Biden could have made the exact same decision, but he didn’t.”

In other words, as the far-right Wisconsin senator sees it, part of the problem here is that President Biden is a big meanie. Why doesn’t he show the kind of magnanimity that Trump showed when he decided to leave Hillary Clinton alone?

At this point, I could take a few paragraphs to explain that Biden has nothing to do with his predecessor’s prosecution — the indictment came by way of an independent special counsel and a grand jury, not the Oval Office — followed by several more sentences about the fact that Clinton wasn’t charged because there was no evidence to support an indictment, despite extensive scrutiny.

But that’s not what made Johnson’s comments so striking. Rather, what’s amazing are the events the Republican senator appears to have forgotten.

Donald Trump is set to appear in court on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET. Follow our live blog for the latest updates and analysis in his classified documents case.

In Trump’s first year in the White House, he publicly pleaded with the Justice Department to go after his 2016 rival. A year later, the then-president told the White House counsel that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton.

Ahead of Election Day 2020, Trump called for Clinton’s incarceration and lobbied then-Attorney General Barr to prosecute Clinton for reasons unknown.

None of this was kept secret. It happened out in the open. We all saw it play out in public.

And yet, there was Johnson on Sunday, telling a national television audience that Trump “decided not to pursue any kind of prosecution of Hillary Clinton.”

The point isn’t that the Wisconsin Republican says untrue things, a point that’s painfully familiar. Rather, there’s a larger arc to this that the political world should at least try to keep in mind: For all the odd and deceptive claims about Democrats trying to “weaponize” federal law enforcement, Trump took brazen and desperate steps — repeatedly, and in public — to turn federal law enforcement into a weapon to be used against his perceived political enemies.

His Republican allies, including Johnson, not only failed to complain about such efforts while they happened, they’re now pretending not to remember the events at all.