Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., charges the FBI is stonewalling his efforts to get to the bottom of allegations that political bias influenced the bureau’s decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton in its investigation of her mishandling of classified information.
Johnson is demanding that the FBI reveal who was behind the watering down of then-FBI Director James Comey’s draft statement on the Clinton email probe.
But he’s not getting any answers from the bureau, he told the Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Thursday night.
“I have no idea why the FBI doesn’t just come clean and provide this information to Congress. What are they trying to hide? What are they trying to cover up?” Johnson asked.
Johnson has given the FBI until Dec. 27 to provide him with answers.
He told Carlson the bureau is being used as a “political weapon.”
“They don’t believe they need to or they have to” turn over the information, he said. “They’re not going to be compelled to, apparently.”
Johnson, recalling the infamous IRS attack on conservative non-profits, said the American people are losing confidence in governmental institutions as they become more and more politicized.
“We have seen now with this Lois Lerner in the IRS politicizing the more fearsome government agency from the standpoint from most Americans, used it as a political weapon,” Johnson said.
“We’ve seen the politicization of the FBI. So we are losing confidence in these institutions that should be bedrocks of our democracy.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel reported Johnson, in correspondence with Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, raised the question of when the bureau first learned of FBI counterintelligence officer Peter Strzok’s anti-Trump text messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
Strassel writes: “Was it before Mr. Mueller was even appointed? Did FBI leaders sit by as the special counsel tapped Mr. Strzok? In any case, we know from the letter that the inspector general informed both Messrs. Rosenstein and Mueller of the texts on July 27, and that both men hid that explosive information from Congress for four months.”
Strassel also reported that two Comey confidantes who were interviewed in an investigation of Comey in 2016 regarding politicization of the Clinton email probe refused to be interviewed without signing unprecedented nondisclosure agreements that gave the FBI full authority to withhold the information from Congress.
The investigation by the Office of Special Counsel centered on whether or not Comey violated the Hatch Act, which restricts political activity by executive-branch officials.
The Office of Special Council is a federal agency, distinct from Robert Mueller’s probe, that polices personnel practices.
In a letter this week to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Johnson demanded that Wray authorize the release of the full transcripts and other documents.
Here is a transcript of Johson’s interview with Carlson, published by Real Clear Politics:
TUCKER CARLSON: The question is your office released today the draft of this Comey speech and it’s pretty clear that somebody changed it in Hillary’s favor. Any reasonable person can conclude that. The question is who? You’ve asked the FBI to explain who made these edits? Why won’t they respond?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: They don’t believe they need to or they have to. They’re not going to be compelled to, apparently. What’s really interesting about this is this new draft statement was done months before they completed the interviews. The FBI, again, this investigation into Clinton’s email really was not meant to uncover the truth leading to prosecution. From my standpoint it was meant to cover up the truth and exonerate Hillary Clinton. And the fact that the FBI Director basically writing a letter exonerating Hillary Clinton. But in that letter, in the earlier drafts, he was using the term gross negligence a number of times. He was talking with the sheer volume of material that would be classified which would be one of the standards in terms of why he would prosecute her and he talks about, not just the volume there. But he earlier had the sheer volume that would indicate this.
There’s so many things in the initial statement that would lead to people saying why didn’t you indict And I remember when he held that news conference. I had attorneys that were prosecutors and he was going through the evidence, people were going, man, he is going to indict her. And then he doesn’t indict her.
CARLSON: But it doesn’t make any sense. The letter you sent today lays out the timeline and it’s certainly interesting. So the draft was written in the beginning of May in 2016. Comey didn’t read it in public until two months later. When it was written, basically exonerating Hillary Clinton, they had not interview Hillary Clinton, Cheryl Mills, and about a dozen other people. So that just looks like a sham to me.
JOHNSON: Well then you take a look at the immunity agreements they gave to Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson. They basically blocked the FBI from looking at certain emails for certain time frames that would have proven potentially obstruction of justice. They allowed them to then destroy their computers. This is not an investigation serious of uncovering the truth.
CARLSON: So if I am looking at this at home and I don’t live in Washington why shouldn’t I conclude that the powerful get a pass? If I did this I’d be charged with a felony. If someone powerful like Hillary Clinton does it, she gets off.
JOHNSON: That’s the problem. We have seen now with this Lois Lerner in the IRS politicizing the more fearsome government agency from the standpoint from most Americans, used it as a political weapon. We’ve seen the politicization of the FBI. So we are losing confidence in these institutions that should be bedrocks of our democracy.
And again, I have no idea why the FBI doesn’t just come clean and provide this information to Congress. What are they trying to hide? What are they trying to cover up?
CARLSON: Have they explained this to you? How can you exonerate someone before interviewing that person or other key figures in the investigation? A really simple question. Have they answered that?
JOHNSON: No, absolutely not. Other than hiding behind the NDA, they are not telling us why they won’t release this information.
CARLSON: So you’re a co-equal branch of government, unlike every person at the FBI you were elected by voters. So a basic question of democracy hangs in the balance here: what can you do?
They are required by the Constitution to answer your questions.
JOHNSON: We have legitimate oversight and it is our Constitutional duty, responsibility and right. And so we can subpoena. But, again, we don’t really have the power to enforce those subpoenas, that resides in the executive branch in the Department of Justice and that’s where the problem lies.
CARLSON: So what can you do?
JOHNSON; Well, we’ll keep making these things public and hopefully public pressure will force the FBI to come clean if they really want to remove the suspicions surrounding not only what happened back under the Hillary Clinton email investigation but currently what’s happening under the Mueller investigation. The same cast of characters are involved in both.
CARLSON: Not as a partisan, not as an elected Republican, but as a citizen of America, do you find this a little scary?
JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely.