Will the GOP Demand Ron Johnson Be Stripped of Committee Assignments for Ignoring a Defensive Briefing?

There’s been a lot of attention on this WaPo story, which had to retract a report that Rudy Giuliani had gotten a defensive briefing long after the time he helped get Marie Yovanovich fired (which is reportedly what he is being investigated for), but well before he continued to peddle Russian disinformation even after Treasury sanctions would have made it legally problematic to do so (indeed–that may be the implication of this NBC story on the decision not to give him a briefing). I mean, Rudy’s right to be pissed that WaPo claimed that he had a specific warning on top of the zillion other warnings that were in plain sight, but it’s not clear it helps him legally in the least.

There’s been less consideration of the implications of Ron Johnson’s admission that he did get a defensive briefing, but he blew it off.

The FBI last summer also gave what is known as a defensive briefing to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who ahead of the election used his perch as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to investigate Biden’s dealings with Ukraine while he was vice president and his son Hunter Biden held a lucrative seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Johnson, a staunch Trump ally, recalled receiving a vague warning from FBI briefers in August, but he said Thursday that there was no substance to their cautionary message and that he did not view the meeting as a “defensive briefing” on his oversight of the Biden family’s foreign business ventures.

“Regarding reports that I received an FBI briefing warning me that I was a target of Russian disinformation, I can confirm I received such a briefing in August of 2020,” Johnson said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I asked the briefers what specific evidence they had regarding this warning, and they could not provide me anything other than the generalized warning. Without specific information, I felt the briefing was completely useless and unnecessary (since I was fully aware of the dangers of Russian disinformation).

“Because there was no substance to the briefing, and because it followed the production and leaking of a false intelligence product by Democrat leaders, I suspected that the briefing was being given to be used at some future date for the purpose that it is now being used: to offer the biased media an opportunity to falsely accuse me of being a tool of Russia despite warnings.”

Remember that for months, Republicans have been attacking Eric Swalwell because, before he was on the House Intelligence Committee, he got a defensive briefing about a woman who, the FBI informed him, was recruiting for China. He stopped talking to the woman and cooperated with the FBI, doing precisely what you’re supposed to do after getting a defensive briefing.

Nevertheless, the GOP has repeatedly used the story to call for Swalwell to be removed from HPSCI. Kevin McCarthy, after a briefing on the matter, narrowly danced with leaking information while judging that Swalwell should not be on HPSCI. Devin Nunes (whose ties to Rudy’s legal woes may soon get rather interesting) suggested Swalwell’s focus on Russia was done at the behest of China. The two staged a vote to throw him off HPSCI that failed.

And even Ron Johnson got in the act, claiming (though the timeline makes no sense) that the Chinese got Swalwell appointed to HPSCI and claiming that China was grooming Swalwell.

Johnson launched that attack in December 2020, months after he had been warned that Russia was grooming him the same way.

Only, unlike Swalwell, Johnson blew off that warning.

According to the GOP standard, shouldn’t Johnson be stripped of his Committee positions, particularly Homeland Security and Foreign Relations?

26 replies
  1. BobCon says:

    “Devin Nunes (whose ties to Rudy’s legal woes may soon get rather interesting) ”

    Nunes? So out of character.

    • Eureka says:

      That was the exact fragment I itched to quote as well.

      What’s Derek Harvey up to these days, anyhow?

  2. jdmckay says:

    > According to the GOP standard,

    Standard? Does GOP have any of those?

    > shouldn’t Johnson be stripped of his Committee positions, particularly
    > Homeland Security and Foreign Relations?

    Maybe put in a padded white room, in a straight jacket. (seriously)

    I see so much of this almost every day, both from the left and right: eg. “… can you imagine what (so and so) on the other side would say (or do) if they were accused of what I am?”

    I have never really asked (maybe I should) how other people process this, but to me I’ve gotten to the point where I just more or less ignore this stuff now. There is rarely a satisfying answer to these kinds of propositions.

    Particularly (and its been the same for a while) that while all these side shows are going on, the hardcore Jim Crow legislation (or vote “audit” in Az) being rammed through so many red states I find scary. It seems like fight this is a game of “whack a mole”: good people win one battle then these “conservatives” unabashedly flood the landscape with this kind of crap.

    I will be 66 in October. Had both feet in many fights (mostly in Albuquerque) for years, won a few but quite a few more not… mostly because of the offender’s lies. Until about 4 years ago I could stand up and continue but now… it seems to me worse then ever (but maybe I’m just getting tired), I just don’t have the stomach. It has cost me excellent health, I feel as though in last 7 years I’ve aged 20.

    Just my $.02 (and slipping) on the matter. (and Marcy, don’t take my comment as criticism, I still read here almost everyday.) I hope you are holding up well.

    • jdmckay says:

      Just one example I find so telling, meaning the US (especially GOP) increasing propensity to not just waste more of the country’s time with endless lies, but while doing so preventing effort & activity on things we need to so badly be addressing.

      As comparison, I have been spending about 1/2 my time in Vietnam the last 3+ years. It is a relatively poor country, with a population just under 100 million. Vietnam’s response to Covid resulted in reliably verified death toll of… anyone take a guess?

      Under a 100. Not one death since August of last year.

      I was in Vietnam when NY had freezer trucks full of body bags and the following almost 6 months. The contrast was almost impossible to comprehend. The article I linked above explains how they did this, so I won’t go into detail.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    RoJo needs to be worried like Nunes, because he is just as caught up in the Russian footsie. The side-by-side comparison between Swalwell and RoJo is highly informative if the courtier press pays any attention to it (they won’t) especially as EW pointed out the curious interest in Chinese contacts.

    Also, wasn’t RoJo one of the Moscow Brigade visiting for the 4th of July?

    • P J Evans says:

      Yes, he was.

      FWIW, the list:
      Richard Shelby
      Ron Johnson
      Steve Daines
      John Thune
      John Kennedy
      Jerry Moran
      John Hoeven
      Rep Kay Granger

      • Rayne says:

        We need to keep a close eye on the Moscow Mob:

        Re-elected 2020:
        Steve Daines EVEN (-?)
        Rep Kay Granger (2-yr term) R+18

        Term ends 2022:
        R Shelby AL (retiring) R+13
        R Johnson WI EVEN
        J Thune SD R+14
        J Kennedy LA R+11
        J Moran KS R+13
        J Hoeven ND R+17

        Only Shelby’s seat is open. The remaining 5 Senators and 1 Representative are believed to be running for re-election. With Johnson’s seat rated by Cook as EVEN, it’s no wonder Johnson’s sucking hard at Putin’s propaganda — he’s desperate for all the help he can get.

        • Leoghann says:

          Granger’s reelection is not in question. Although she is generally considered to represent Fort Worth (where she served as their first woman mayor, in the early Nineties), and Fort Worth is turning bluer and bluer, Granger’s district only covers the redder western half of Fort Worth proper. Thanks to gerrymandering, she also represents much-redder, mostly rural Parker County, with a couple of very red northern FtW suburbs, in Denton County to the north.

          • Rayne says:

            The Cook rating on Granger’s district certainly looks like it’s in the bag. But why was she invited if her district was such a gimme for the GOP? Why is she the only rep to make the trip? There’s something there which needs further examination.

  4. Leoghann says:

    Considering Johnson’s massive change in personality in the past four years, which is something that even good friends have commented publicly on, I’d say he allowed himself to be groomed. I’m hoping that the Wisconsin Democratic Party will continue their successful voter outreach programs and campaign support, and that Wisconsin voters will send RoJo to Petrograd in 2022. (He doesn’t have enough class for Moscow.)

  5. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    RoJo refers to an intelligence “…product by Democrat leaders”
    He’s in deep.
    He can’t say ‘Democratic’; he uses ‘Democrat’ to impugn.
    If he isn’t going to believe the FBI, it’s likely that even Moses with tablets coming down a mountain would fail to bring this guy around.

    But what this post reveals about McConnell (and McCarthy) as Minority Leaders is appalling.

    They are so gluttonous for power — no matter how illegitimate — that they fail to haul Nunes and RonAnon on the carpet. Shameless.

    • FL Resister says:

      We are either witnessing the last horrifying gasps of white supremacy power loci in the US or the official steps in establishment of an authoritarian, nondemocratic state.

      Guess what Putin would like to see? And we all know who has been working closely with Putin and that McConnell and McCarthy, current minority leaders in both houses, will easily roll over for this to happen.

      Seeing their party throw democratic principles and accountability out the door, Kristol, Neumann and Troye have organized the Republican Accountability Project to try and save the Republican Party from continuing to go down that road.

      • dsl says:

        During his speech last week, President Biden said some interesting things about America’s rivals believing that (paraphrasing) democracy is too slow to keep up in the modern world. I don’t usually watch these things (I’m Canadian) so I’m not sure if this is the usual ‘Rah, Rah America! Freedom!’ fanfare or if there’s much more to it.

        Whatever it is, it sure is an interesting coincidence that Rs have turned to pure obstructionism and lies in last few years. Why, it’s almost like they are trying to drag democracy down. So weird how that works.

  6. GLEN TOMKINS says:

    Yes, Rs should be behind taking Johnson’s committee assignments away from him — no argument from me there.

    What bothers me a bit about that idea, is this — why are we discussing what the Rs should do here, when the Senate has a D majority, and all it takes is a majority to take away committee assignments, and staff, and office space? It takes 2/3 to expel, so if the question were one of expulsion, yes, the responsibility of Rs to support expulsion would become a relevant question, because 1/3 of their Senate caucus would be needed to join the Ds and get done what is proposed needs to be done. But Ds have the majority in the Senate. We control the agenda, what comes up for a vote, and what doesn’t.

    I can’t see any point talking about what measures Rs are morally responsible for supporting until those measures are put up for a vote by the D majority. Put it this way. Why are Senate Ds not behind taking away Johnson’s committee assignments?

    • Rayne says:

      This should tell you something about the “majority” the Democrats have. You do realize there are Independents who caucus with Dems in that “majority,” along with two intransigent DINOs, right?

      Would it be worth it politically to expose to the GOP’s base that the Dems don’t really have a true majority by forcing this issue on the Senate floor?

    • graham firchlis says:

      Glen Tomkins, couple of things.

      First, point of fact the 48 Democrats are not a Senate majority. Even with Independents, the Democratic Caucus has just 50 members and 50/100 is not a majority. (The VP has no vote on internal decision making, Senators only.)

      Second, under the current power sharing agreement each caucus leader has the sole power over committee assignments. Mitch McConnell has sole authority over, and thus full responsibility for, the committee assignment of Ron Johnson.

      The Democrats have neither the authority nor the responsibility, and so deserve none of the blame. None.


      Several Democrats have condemned Johnson, and if McConnell does not rebuke him expect Democrats to advance a censure motion, if only to get Republicans on the record supporting yet another Russian dupe.

      Unwarranted attacks on the Democrats can only serve to undermine progressive advance. Please don’t.

  7. Jenny says:

    “Vladimir Putin is only going to respond to action, strength, and resolve. He’s not going to respond to words.” Ron Johnson

  8. SWS says:

    I wonder if the investigation into Rudy will shed any more light on Congressman 1. Now that he is our representative, I stay interested in his role.

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