Ron Johnson: "I Understand The President's Frustration" Over Two Year Witch Hunt


NBC's "Meet the Press" fill-in host Andrea Mitchell interviews Sen. Ron Johnson about the Mueller Report and the president's plans for protecting the 2020 election from foreign interference.

"I completely understand the president's frustration," Johnson said. "He knew, from day one, that he was innocent. And he was subjected to this two-year investigation, a very thorough investigation."

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, good to be with you. I wanted to ask you, first, about the speech last night. The president referred to F.B.I. officials as scum. Is that the right way for the president of the United States to speak about law enforcement officers of the U.S. government?

SEN. RON JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I completely understand the president's frustration. He knew, from day one, that he was innocent. And he was subjected to this two-year investigation, a very thorough investigation. And in that process, certainly, Andrew McCabe was fired, because he lied to his own investigators. Now, this is the former deputy director and acting F.B.I. director lying to his own investigators. So no, I understand the president's frustration. From my standpoint, there has been a concerted effort, since the day after the election, to sabotage this administration. So I completely understand his frustration.

ANDREA MITCHELL: And do you agree that he should use words like scum to describe law enforcement officers?

SEN. RON JOHNSON: Probably, I would use different words. But I would certainly question the possibility, now, I think, the proven fact, there was definitely corruption at the highest levels of the F.B.I. And that's one thing Senator Graham, Senator Grassley, and myself are going to try and uncover, now that the Mueller investigation is over.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, the Mueller investigation reported hundreds of contacts with Russian officials, no evidence that could be prosecuted, but partly because they were emails that were, that were erased. There were people that were not available. There were people they couldn't interview or refused to be interviewed. They couldn't get to interview the president, himself. Are you comfortable with all of the contacts between this campaign and the Russian officials?

SEN. RON JOHNSON: Yes, I am, because I read the report. It's painstakingly detailed. And you know, time and time again, Special Counsel Mueller said there was no evidence of collusion. And there was none. And again, we have enormous challenges facing this nation, the crisis at the border. And this has been a huge distraction for the American public, as well as this administration, as it tries to try to tackle these tough problems.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, he didn’t say -- he didn't say, sir that there was no evidence of collusion because that's not a legal term. He said that he could not prove a conspiracy. But the president's own lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said that he thinks it's okay for Republican campaign members, for Republican candidates, to welcome support from a foreign adversary, from Russia. Do you feel the same way? Would you welcome support from Russia in your campaign?

SEN. RON JOHNSON: No, and I don't believe the Trump campaign did. So again, from my standpoint, this issue is over, in terms of collusion. Now, I was one of the people briefed, by the Obama administration, when we were told about Russian interference. That was back in September 2016. And the whole point of that briefing, in, in a secure situation, was, “We have this covered. We want you to go out, as members of Congress, and say that the election results will be legitimate." That's what they wanted us to say. But then, the wrong person got elected. And all of a sudden, we have this whole Russian collusion story. And it has been a big hoax. It's been a witch hunt. And I understand the President's frustration.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, Mitt Romney, one of your fellow Republican senators, said, "I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president. I am also appalled that fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia, including information that had been illegally obtained, that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement." That was after his read of the Mueller report. Why haven't you and other Republican senators reacted as he reacted to the Mueller report, especially on obstruction?

SEN. RON JOHNSON: Maybe it's because I understand the president's frustration at being subjected to a witch hunt for two years. Now, I was in that rally yesterday. It was a venue filled, a record crowd, full of energized people, who love this country and who, quite honestly, their support for President Trump is actually growing. So that's what I'm seeing. I'm seeing the economy grow by 3.2%. I'm seeing business investment averaging, over the last six -- nine quarters, at over 6%, when the last two years of President Obama was 0.6%. Ten times greater business investment, that's going to drive our economy for years to come. So again, I'm looking at the results of this administration. And I also think about what we could've accomplished, had this witch hunt not been occurring for the --


SEN. RON JOHNSON: -- last two years. I understand the president's frustration. And I also understand the president's supporters' frustration of the media just continuing, continuing this witch hunt. It's ridiculous.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, you're calling it a witch hunt. Let me play something that Chris Wray said just the other day, the F.B.I. director, about Russian attempts to interfere with the elections.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY: I do think that Russia poses a very significant counterintelligence threat, certainly, in the cyber arena. That is not just an election-cycle threat. It's pretty much a 365-days-a-year threat. And that has absolutely continued.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Why haven't we heard that from the president? Why does the president stand next to Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki, and say he believes Putin over his own intelligence officials about the Russian attacks on our democracy?

SEN. RON JOHNSON: Listen, Andrea, I am every bit as concerned about Russian interference as any Democratic senator. I'm chairman of the European Subcommittee. I've seen the attempted coup in Montenegro. So it didn't surprise me at all that they were interfering in our election through social media, as the primary cause. That's hard, that’s hard to really police. But in terms of changing vote totals, almost impossible, because we have local control of elections. What is certainly at risk is voter files. But DHS has done a pretty good job of consulting with state and local jurisdictions to try and prevent that from happening, as well. So let's not blow this thing out of proportion. Let's be vigilant. Let's be concerned about it. But let's not blow it out of proportion, either.

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