Johnson Met With Ukrainian Diplomat Behind Debunked DNC Conspiracy Theory

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) speaks with reporters in the Capitol on Thursday, May 17, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) met with Andrii Telizhenko, an ex-Ukrainian diplomat who’s been fueling a false claim about the DNC and Ukrainian election interference, earlier this year.

Telizhenko told the Washington Post that he had met with Johnson in Washington for at least a half hour, partially to discuss what he called “the DNC issue.” The Post found a Facebook photo of the two men dated July 11.

“I was in Washington, and Sen. Johnson found out I was in D.C., and staff called me and wanted to do a meeting with me,” the former diplomat told the Post. “So I reached out back and said, ‘Sure, I’ll come down the Hill and talk to you,'”

“The DNC issue” in this context refers to the debunked conspiracy theory alleging that the DNC and the Ukrainians had conspired to uncover details of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s crimes. A separate “Crowdstrike” conspiracy theory alleges that the DNC and a digital security firm kept a server hidden from the FBI that detailed the DNC’s efforts to frame Russia for Ukraine’s election interference in 2016.

President Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani have obsessively peddled conspiracy theories about the DNC and the Ukrainian government in the 2016 elections to the point where Trump attempted to force the Ukrainian president into investigating it by withholding military aid–an effort that has led to an ongoing House impeachment inquiry.

Johnson’s meeting with Telizhenko reveals a new link between the Republican senator and Trump allies’ efforts to legitimize the conspiracy theory amid the impeachment proceedings against Trump over his Ukraine scheme.

Johnson and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) pushed Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate the conspiracy theory near the end of September, saying that “such allegations of corruption deserve due scrutiny.”

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