Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Will links to Giuliani allies muddy Johnson re-election bid?

Ron Johnson has gone out of his way in recent weeks to drag himself along with Wisconsin's good name through the mud with a series of post-2020 election moves and remarks that range from false, to corrosively nutty

to flat-out racist, as Washington Post Pulitzer prize-winner Eugene Robinson concluded:

Opinion: Ron Johnson’s racism is breathtaking

Exactly why Johnson has chosen this path is as murky as his mindset; I've said it looks to me like a re-election strategy based on corralling every far-right conspiracy-addled Republican rightwing voter who doesn't care about - or perhaps enjoys - the turmoil Johnson is inflaming even though Johnson publicly pledged during a 2016 interview that he would limit himself to two terms only:

Sen. Ron Johnson says he won't seek 3rd term if reelected in November. 

But Johnson had served for the previous six years as chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and a just-unclassified and released report by the federal umbrella  Intelligence Council may make Johnson's re-election bid even more fraught.

You can read the report released March 10, here.

Foreign Threats to the US Federal Elections

And because of this finding - 

"A key element of Moscow's strategy this election cycle was its use of proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives — including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden — U.S. media organizations, U.S. officials, and prominent U.S. individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration," report says. -

- the report may reignite a still-simmering 2019 storyline that Johnson should not welcome if he were to run for re-election: 

Sen. Johnson, ally of Trump and Ukraine, surfaces in crucial episodes in the saga

Sen. Ron Johnson met in July with a former Ukrainian diplomat who has circulated unproven claims that Ukrainian officials assisted Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, a previously unreported contact that underscores the GOP senator’s involvement in the unfolding narrative that triggered the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

In an interview last week, Andrii Telizhenko said he met with Johnson (Wis.) for at least 30 minutes on Capitol Hill and with Senate staff for five additional hours.  

Props to Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee for staying on the story well before the release of the Intelligence Council's report:

Johnson Tainted by Ukrainian Official?

Telizhenko and the other six Ukrainians “have made repeated public statements advancing malicious narratives that U.S. Government officials have engaged in corrupt dealings in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday. And those malicious narratives were soon taken up by Johnson.

“Telizhenko sparked U.S. officials’ concern in early 2019 when he began promoting pro-Russian, anti-Biden narratives by sharing information with GOP lawmakers,” the story noted. “He told The Post last year that he cooperated extensively with an investigation” by Sen. Johnson. The two met to discuss the issue back in July 2019, as an earlier Post story revealed.

The information from Telizhenko was a key part of the the investigation by Johnson’s Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, which recycled the dirt peddled by [Trump lawyer] Giuliani in an attempt to smear Joe Biden. The report was widely condemned by the media as a “hatchet job” whose 87 pages amounted to “little more than a rehashing of unproven allegations” and “contained no evidence that the former vice president improperly manipulated American policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed.”

But it did contain lots of stuff from Telizhenko. “Chairmen Johnson…cited Mr. Telizhenko 42 times in the letters sent as part of this investigation, and ignored repeated warnings to not give credibility to disinformation,” noted Oregon’s Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden in a statement he released yesterday. “Johnson and his staff even met with Mr. Telizhenko for hours in person… By imposing sanctions on Telizhenko, the Trump administration confirms that Senate Republicans’ year-long investigation was based on Russian disinformation.” 

Johnson has vigorously defended his committee's investigation:

GOP senator subpoenas FBI over Russia, defends Biden probe

“As always, almost all of the documents we are seeking and will make public are from U.S. sources,” Johnson wrote in the letter. 

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