Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) spoke with Fox News anchor Bret Baier on Tuesday night and dropped a bombshell claim: high-ranking members of the FBI were part of a “secret society” actively attempting to overthrow the Trump administration.
The proof, he said, lay in a series of classified text messages between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, which have not been made public.
“What this is all about is further evidence of corruption — more than bias — but corruption of the highest levels of the FBI,” Johnson said, referring to Strzok and Page’s texts, which were largely critical of President Trump. Both employees had been working on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe until last summer. Strzok was dismissed after the series of text messages were first brought to light; Page had already completed her work for the special counsel by then.
Offering no evidence to support his claim, he added, “And that secret society… we have an informant talking about a group that was holding secret meetings off-site. There is so much smoke here. There’s so much suspicion.”
After Baier asked him to elaborate, Johnson shook his head “no.”
“We have to dig into it,” he said.
On Wednesday, amid escalating criticism, Johnson doubled down.
“Listen, the term secret society comes from Strzok and Page. I had heard of a group of people within the F.B.I. Holding secret offsite meetings. I was connecting the dots,” he told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer.
When Hemmer pushed him for more details, Johnson refused, arguing that the matter was classified. “I don’t want to give any indication. We’re dealing with the world’s premier investigative agency here and people that come forward to us fear retaliation.”
Once again, despite having the messages at his disposal, Johnson refused to produce any evidence to back his claim.
Johnson’s suggestion of a “secret society” is not the first wild theory Republicans have conjured up in recent weeks in a concentrated effort to discredit Mueller’s investigation, often without any supporting evidence.
On Thursday last week, Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee claimed that they had seen a four-page memo detailing surveillance abuses by people working for the FBI, adding that it proved corruption at the highest levels of the Justice Department. According to Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, one GOP member even compared the alleged surveillance to “KGB activity in Russia.”
As ThinkProgress previously noted, there’s nothing stopping Republicans from releasing the memo in question, and no need to wait for the president to declassify it either. Despite this, Republicans have waged war on the FBI and Democrats alike for supposedly covering it up, even pushing a #ReleaseTheMemo campaign on Twitter.
Republican pressure on Mueller and his team has escalated since the special counsel handed out its first indictments late last year. In October, Mueller’s office indicted former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates several charges, including money laundering, operating as unregistered foreign agents for the Ukraine, and conspiracy against the United States. That same week, it was revealed that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty earlier in the year to lying to the FBI about his campaign communications with the Russians. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December and is reportedly cooperating with Mueller’s team.
The New York Times on Tuesday also reported that Mueller’s team had interviewed both Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey, among others. Comey previously claimed that Trump pushed him to pledge his loyalty and asked him to drop the FBI investigation into Flynn.