‘Who set him up?’ Ron Johnson, on ‘Meet the Press’ says he ‘doesn’t trust’ the CIA or FBI

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A second whistleblower came forward, saying they have information about President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine — the focus of an impeachment inquiry.

The attorney for both whistleblowers said this person has “firsthand knowledge” to corroborate allegations in the original complaint.

The whistleblowers accused President Trump of pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political opponents, and a White House coverup.

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, (R-Wisconsin) defended President Trump Sunday morning, Oct. 6 on Meet the Press with a conspiracy theory, suggesting he was set up.

“Unlike the narrative of the press that President Trump wants to dig up dirt on his 2020 opponent, what he wants is he wants an accounting of what happened in 2016,” said Senator Johnson. “Who set him up? Did things spring from Ukraine?”

Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in Congress, also said in the interview he “doesn’t trust” the CIA or FBI.

President Trump responded on Twitter, saying, “Democratic lawyer is same for both whistleblowers? All support Obama and Crooked Hillary. Witch hunt!”

However, rough transcripts released by the White House of the president’s Ukraine call showed him pressuring the foreign nation.

Below is a transcript of the conversation on “Meet the Press,” as released by Senator Johnson’s office:

CHUCK TODD: Senator Johnson, welcome back to “Meet the Press,” sir.

SEN. RON JOHNSON: Good morning, Chuck.

TODD: Let me start with something you told the Wall Street Journal late last week. You said Gordon Sondland seemed to imply that the frozen military aid was connected to promise by Zelensky for investigations. You said, at that suggestion, “I winced. My reaction was, ‘Oh, God, I don’t want to see those two things combined.’” Why did you wince? And what did you mean by “those two things combined”?

SEN. JOHNSON: Well, first of all, your set-up piece was typically very unbiased. Let me first, before I start answering all the detailed questions, let me just talk about why I am pretty sympathetic with what President Trump has gone through. I am 64 years old. I have never in my lifetime seen a president, after being elected, not having some measure of well wishes from his opponents. I’ve never seen a president’s administration be sabotaged from the day after election. I’ve never seen no measure of honeymoon whatsoever. So what President Trump’s had to endure – a false accusation. By the way, you’ve got John Brennan on: You ought to ask Director Brennan what did Peter Strzok mean when he texted Lisa Page on Dec. 15, 2016: Quote …

TODD: Senator …

SEN. JOHNSON: No, Chuck, let me finish…

TODD: This has to do with Ukraine …

SEN. JOHNSON: “… Think our sisters have begun leaking like mad, scorned and worried and political, they’re kicking it into ….”

TODD: What does it have to do with Ukraine?

SEN. JOHNSON: It has everything to do with Ukraine. Now, listen: “Think our sisters have begun leaking like mad. Scorned and worried and political, they’re kicking into overdrive.” Now, that was December 15th. Six days before that is when we first start hearing the CIA leaking about Russia supporting the Trump campaign. That is why Trump is so upset. He had this false narrative that resulted in him being set up by James Comey on January 16th. Then he has a special counsel appointed that has hampered his entire administration and now once he’s been … that was proven false —

TODD: Yeah.

SEN. JOHNSON: — he would like to know, I would like to know, and I know his supporters would like to know, where did this all come from? Who planted that false story? Who leaked? I have my third letter into the inspector general of the intelligence community asking to just confirm — just confirm — are you investigating those leaks that Peter Strzock talked about in that text with Lisa Page?

TODD: I have no idea why —

SEN. JOHNSON: That’s a set-up. It’s entirely relevant to this point.

TODD: — why a Fox News conspiracy propaganda stuff is popping up on here. I have no idea. I have no idea why we’re going here.

SEN. JOHNSON: It is not. Because this is underlying exactly why President Trump is upset  and why his supporters are upset at the news media. Chuck, here’s the deal —

TODD: OK, this is not about the media. Senator Johnson, please. Please. Can we please answer the question that I asked you instead of trying to make Donald Trump feel better here that you are not criticizing him.

SEN. JOHNSON: I’m not. I’m not. I’m just trying to lay the groundwork after your very biased opening.

TODD: I’m trying to answer you are simple question of what made you wince. I’m asking a simple question about you clearly were upset –

SEN. JOHNSON: Yes. Yes. I was.

TODD: — that somehow there was an implication that military aid was being frozen because the president wanted an investigation. Why did you wince?

SEN. JOHNSON: Because I didn’t want those connected. And I was supporting the aid, as is Senator Murphy, as is everybody that went to that initial inauguration. But here’s the salient point of why I came forward. When I asked the president about that, he completely denied it. He adamantly denied it, he vehemently, angrily denied it. He said, “I’d never do that.” That is the piece of the puzzle I’m here to report today, that, unlike the narrative of the press that President Trump wants to dig up dirt on his 2020 opponent, what he wants is he wants an accounting of what happened in 2016. Who set him up? Did things spring from Ukraine? There is a good piece that we’ve got an oversight letter on, from Politico in 2017 — let me quote the article. It says, Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump. They did so by disseminating documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption, suggesting they were investigating the matter. Ukrainian officials also reportedly helped Clinton allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers. There is potential interference in the 2016 campaign –

TODD: Let me ask you this –

SEN. JOHNSON: That’s what Trump wants to get to the bottom of. But the press doesn’t want to –

TODD: Ambassador –

SEN. JOHNSON: The people that wrote this article are being pilloried. I’m being called a conspiracy theorist, (journalist) John Solomon is being called a conspiracy theorist, because the press is horribly biased and Trump and his supporters completely understand that.

TODD: I understand that a way to avoid answering a question is to attack us in the press. I’m well aware of that.

SEN. JOHNSON: No. No. I’m trying to lay the groundwork in order to answer your question.

TODD: Let me tell you what Ambassador Volker said under oath. And I’m curious if you shared this concern. Ambassador Volker said this: “I explained that I believed that Mayor Giuliani continues to have a negative view of Ukraine based on assertion of actions that happened in 2016 and that this viewpoint is likely making its way to the president.” Were you concerned that Rudy Giuliani’s disinformation campaign, sort of, Ukrainian propaganda campaign, was negatively influencing the president’s views of the current Ukrainian president?

SEN. JOHNSON: Well, certainly the reports, not only from Rudy Giuliani but from Ken Vogel out of Politico and John Solomon, doing some pretty good investigative reporting — now the Washington Post is attacking him, undermining him – all that information: We have never gotten to the answers to those questions. Chuck, I want to get to the truth. I’m not here defending the president. I’m not here to denounce him, either. What I’m here is I’m telling you my piece of the puzzle here, giving you my honest assessment of what I heard, how the president told me repeatedly in the May 23rd Oval Office visit, on the phone on the 31st, the reason he had very legitimate concerns and reservations about Ukraine is, first, corruption, generalized, it’s endemic. We all know that. And then specifically about what kind of interference there was in the 2016 election —

TODD: Do you think Paul Manafort was framed —

SEN. JOHNSON: — and also, and also, the fact that Europe was not stepping up the plate.

TODD: Do you think Paul Manafort was framed?

SEN. JOHNSON: No, obviously, he was convicted. There was a lot of other stuff going on back then, too. You know, Hillary Clinton’s campaign was searching for dirt, maybe not only on Paul Manafort but trying to keep Vice President Biden out of the primary for the Democratic campaign. So again, Chuck, the bottom line is there are so many questions unanswered. So again, ask John Brennan what did Peter Strzok mean when “The sisters begun leaking like mad”? What was the CIA scorned and worried about? What were they kicking into overdrive? There is one key question I want answered among, I don’t know, about a hundred others.

TODD: Senator, do you not believe the Russians interfered in the presidential elections to benefit Donald Trump?

SEN. JOHNSON: They absolutely did. They absolutely did. I don’t know to what extent the Ukrainians did. I don’t know to what extent the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign were involved in juicing up the Ukrainian involvement as well. There are a lot of unanswered questions. Chuck, I just want the truth. The American people want the truth. President Trump’s supporters want the truth.

TODD: You don’t trust the FBI, the CIA?

SEN. JOHNSON: No, no, I don’t. Absolutely not. After Peter Strzok and Lisa Page? After James Comey, Peter Strzok, John Brennan?

TODD: You believe the FBI and the CIA —

SEN. JOHNSON: I don’t trust any of these guys in the Obama administration. I don’t trust any of them.

TODD: You don’t trust them now? Do you trust them now?

SEN. JOHNSON: No, I didn’t trust them back then.

TODD: And you don’t trust them now?

SEN. JOHNSON: I do not trust John Brennan. I do not trust Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, James Comey, Andrew McCabe. I don’t trust those guys.

TODD: None of them have come to any of the conclusions you are trying to come to. I’m curious, do you trust them now?

SEN. JOHNSON: Now, who are you talking about?

TODD: The CIA and the FBI.

SEN. JOHNSON: I don’t trust Andrew McCabe. I don’t trust James Comey. I don’t trust Peter Strzok. I don’t trust John Brennan.

TODD: Senator, let me ask you this.

SEN. JOHNSON: I’ve got a lot of questions that remain unanswered. I just want the truth, Chuck.

TODD: So would I.

SEN. JOHNSON: I want to truth. No, you set this thing up totally biased. I could never really get into the full narrative. We don’t have enough time to go through all the things I can talk about in terms of my interactions with the president.

TODD: You’re right, because you came here and chose to bring up something about Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.

SEN. JOHNSON: No, you started the piece with something incredibly biased, that I would never be able to get the truth out.

TODD: Senator, I don’t know why you just came on here to personally attack the press and avoid answering questions about what’s happened here.

SEN. JOHNSON: Because of your set-up piece.

TODD: Senator, it’s pretty clear. We’re only dealing with the facts that we have. Not the facts that you wish them to be.

SEN. JOHNSON: No, that’s what I want to deal with and I can’t get the answers. And I can’t get the answers. The American people can’t get the answers. Something pretty fishy happened during the 2016 campaign and in the transition, the early part of the Trump presidency, and we still don’t know. Robert Mueller was completely blinded. He never looked into any of that and he should have. Hopefully William Barr will.

TODD: You are making a choice not to believe the investigations that have taken place, multiple.

SEN. JOHNSON: No, I’m trying to get to the truth. I want to look at the entire truth, Chuck. The media doesn’t.

TODD: And the truth is only when it benefits — when you believe it is politically comfortable with you?

SEN. JOHNSON: No, you are totally false. You’re totally incorrect. I want the complete truth.

TODD: Well, so are we.

SEN. JOHNSON: I doubt that.

TODD: I’m sorry that you chose to come on this way, senator. Thanks very much.

SEN. JOHNSON: And I’m sorry you started your piece that way.

Sen. Johnson says Pres. Trump blocked Ukraine aid

Senator Johnson said Friday, Oct. 4 he learned from a U.S. ambassador that President Trump was tying military aid for Ukraine to an investigation of the 2016 election. But when the senator asked President Trump if he could assure the Ukraine leadership the money would be coming, the president blocked him from carrying that message.

Johnson, a leader of the Senate’s Ukraine caucus, made several trips to the Eastern European ally this year after the election of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. He told the Wall Street Journal that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, told him the Ukraine aid, which is part of the country’s defenses against Russia, was being linked to President Trump’s desire to have Zelenskiy’s team investigate the 2016 U.S. elections.

Separately, Johnson told reporters in Sheboygan, Wis., that President Trump had blocked his suggestion that he carry a message to Ukraine’s president assuring him that U.S. military aid was on the way.

“I was surprised by the president’s reaction and realized we had a sales job to do,” Johnson told reporters.

The senator’s remarks fill in more details about events at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. The probe deepened this week with the release of text messages in which Sondland and other diplomats tried to broker a meeting between President Trump and Zelenskiy, on the condition that Ukraine open an investigation into a gas company where Joe Biden’s son had served on the board.

Johnson has largely stood by President Trump and told reporters in Washington last week that he thinks the whole complaint against the president, sparked by a government whistleblower’s allegations, has been “blown way out of proportion.”

The senator told Washington reporters last week that he briefed President Trump before and after the Ukraine visits and understood the president’s desire to root out corruption that has long plagued the Eastern European ally. He also agrees with President Trump’s desire to have NATO allies contribute more money toward their security.

“I’m completely sympathetic with President Trump wanting to get the truth, where did this Russia narrative begin?” Johnson said about the 2016 election.

“I take what President Trump is saying at face value,” said Johnson, who’s leading some of those investigations, including calling on the Justice Department to probe a Ukrainian company affiliated with Biden’s son. He said Trump is “concerned about corruption and continues to say European allies need to step up.”

Johnson was among those who traveled to Ukraine in May, with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, for Zelenskiy’s inauguration after Vice President Mike Pence was unable to make the trip.

On his return, Johnson joined others to brief President Trump in the Oval Office.

Johnson recalled Friday that he and others were confident in the new Ukrainian president and wanted to share their enthusiasm with President Trump.

“We were trying to encourage the president to show a great deal of support” in backing the new leader, he told reporters in Wisconsin.

Ahead of his next trip to Ukraine, in September, he told the Wall Street Journal he was informed by Sondland of the tie-in to the military aid.

“At that suggestion, I winced,” Johnson told the Journal. “My reaction was: Oh, God. I don’t want to see those two things combined.”

Sondland would have known what was underway. It was about that time, in August, that the top diplomat and two others were scrambling to prevent their attempt to broker a meeting between President Trump and Zelenskiy spiral into a quid-pro-quo for the military aid, according to text messages released by the chairmen of the House oversight committees in the impeachment inquiry.

Johnson said that in a call with President Trump the next day he tried to convince the president to let him tell Zelinskiy the military aid would be coming but was rebuffed.

Republicans have been reluctant to break with President Trump, and Johnson also suggested he was standing by the president.

“I certainly understood President Trump had real concern about corruption in general,” Johnson said Friday.

“I’m very sympathetic to the fact what he’s been dragged through,” he said about the 2016 election investigations. “He’d like to understand what happened.”

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