Johnson Walks It Back: ‘Real Possibility’ That ‘Secret Society’ Text Was A Joke

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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has spent the past two days peddling his theory that there’s a “secret society” within the FBI holding “secret meetings off-site,” perpetuating the Republicans’ campaign to discredit the agency amid its Russia probe.

Now, he’s open to the “real possibility” that his proof of the “secret society” was just a joke.

During an interview with Fox News Tuesday evening, Johnson claimed he had an informant who told him about secret FBI meetings that were held off-site after the 2016 election. He later claimed he borrowed the “secret society” language 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.

ABC News obtained a copy of the text message exchange and reported Wednesday evening that the text in question stands alone in a series of messages and lacks context. ABC and CNN have since concluded that the message was likely a joke.

When CNN’s Manu Raju asked Thursday whether the text could have been sent in jest, Johnson said: “It’s a real possibility.”

Republicans have been up in arms over these text messages ever since they were released by the Justice Department late last year. The texts were exchanged between two FBI officials who are under suspicion of having an anti-Trump bias and worked for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Peter Strzok, a top counterintelligence official, was removed from the probe this summer after the messages were found and former FBI aide Lisa Page had already left the investigation by the time they came out.

The FBI announced this weekend that it had lost five months worth of texts between the pair due to a Samsung phone glitch, causing widespread outrage from Trump and other Republicans. The Justice Department confirmed to TPM Wednesday that thousands of employees’ cell phones had been impacted by the glitch.

CNN reported Thursday afternoon that the Justice Department had been able to recover the missing messages.

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