After making the rounds on nearly every national cable news show this week to spout his belief in a “secret society” within the FBI, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told NPR Thursday that he’s “certainly not” trying to discredit the agency.
During an interview with Fox News Tuesday evening, Johnson first mentioned the “secret society” and claimed he had an informant that told him about secret meetings being held off-site after the 2016 election. He later dialed back on the “secret society” claim, saying he borrowed that terminology from a text exchange between two FBI officials who are at the center of a conservative firestorm over whether there’s an anti-Trump bias within the FBI.
Johnson was asked Thursday whether the “secret society” talk is part of a campaign by Republicans to discredit the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“Certainly not on my part. My part goes back three years, and the sham investigation into what I believe was a crime by Secretary Clinton,” he told NPR, referencing the Senate Intelligence Committee’s initial probe into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official business.
He later added that he is going public with this information because he wants “transparency” and wants to make sure “the FBI is beyond reproach in terms of integrity.”
“The only way to restore their integrity is if we get to the bottom, and we need transparency and that’s all I’m trying to provide,” he said.
The texts that Johnson’s basing a portion of his argument on are part of a Justice Department investigation into 50,000 text messages exchanged between agent Peter Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page during the 2016 presidential election, which reportedly show the pair did not want Trump to become president.
The “secret society” text message stands alone in a series of texts and lacks any type of context to tie it to the rest of the conversation, according to ABC News, which obtained a copy of the texts in question and concluded that the comment was likely made as a joke.
Over the weekend, the FBI was expected to release a new round of text messages between Strzok and Page, but announced that the texts have gone missing due to a Samsung phone glitch, which has pushed Trump and Republicans into a fury.
Listen to the interview below: