Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Monday issued his first subpoena as part of his investigation into the FBI’s handling of the probe into the Trump campaign, as well as the unmasking of Trump campaign officials and allegations of government corruption.
Johnson defended the move in a letter dated August 10, 2020:
Two months later, after patiently trying to work with these agencies and individuals on a voluntary basis, I have decided to begin issuing subpoenas primarily because of my strong belief that transparency in government is essential and that the American people have waited too long for the truth.
The letter also laid out the goals of his investigation, including into allegations of corruption involving former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian company Burisma, and he blasted Democrats for initiating a “coordinated disinformation campaign and effort to personally attack” him and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in order to diminish the findings of their joint investigation into FBI corruption.
He said the investigation focuses on two primary areas:
1) allegations of conflicts of interest within the Obama administration related to Ukraine policy, and
2) allegations of corruption within the Obama administration affecting the 2016 election, the transition between administrations, and Obama administration holdovers’ sabotage of the Trump administration.
Johnson explained the origins of his investigation, which he said stems years back, and defended against Democrats’ allegations that he was trying to smear former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
Johnson said his investigation began as far back as March 2015 after then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was found to be violating State Department policy, and possibly section 793(f) of the criminal code, for her extensive use of a private e-mail server for official and classified government business.
He recalled how his investigation not only uncovered information about how the server was stored and secured, but also the extensive editing of then-FBI Director James Comey’s statement that exonerated Clinton. That statement was changed from “gross negligence” to “extremely careless,” among other changes, Johnson noted.
“It is important to note the FBI officials who were involved in the editing process: Andrew McCabe, James Baker, Bill Priestap, Peter Strzok, and Jonathan Moffa. This was the same cast of characters that soon after initiated the investigation targeting candidate Donald Trump and his campaign,” he wrote.
Johnson said, since Trump won the election and did not pursue further investigation of Clinton, he shelved his investigation. “As far as I was concerned, the case was closed. Little did I know that others were only beginning their investigations and sabotage,” he said.
However, then came the infamous “Steele dossier,” he said. He recalled how CNN reported that Comey had briefed President-Elect Donald Trump on its “salacious and unverified allegations,” prompting Buzzfeed to publish the dossier in full.
Johnson then cited a Jan. 11, 2017, Politico article by journalist Ken Vogel that described how Democratic National Committee (DNC) operative [Alexandra Chalupa] worked with Ukrainian officials to conduct opposition research in 2016 on then-candidate Trump and his campaign.
“The article was largely ignored by the mainstream media, which was being fed an unprecedented number of leaks and a narrative that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Trump — a narrative that eventually morphed into the claim that the Trump campaign ‘colluded’ with Russia,” Johnson said.
Johnson recalled his committee’s report on the high number of leaks during the early days of the Trump administration that helped fuel the narrative of Russian collusion. Johnson wrote:
On July 2, 2017, we released a report identifying 125 leaks in the first 126 days of the Trump administration. Many of these leaks helped fuel the false Trump-Russia collusion narrative. As FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok infamously described it at the time, ‘Our sisters have begun leaking like mad. Scorned and worried and political, they’re kicking in to overdrive.’
Johnson said after then-Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tasked the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate those matters, his committee lost access to relevant documents and key witnesses.
“My committee was sidelined, and our investigation was essentially put on hold,” he said.
However, he said he reinitiated his committee’s oversight efforts after Grassley sent a letter to Rosenstein in reaction to Vogel’s article on DNC-Ukraine cooperation during the election.
He said that led to them uncovering “highly revealing and informative text messages between Strzok and fellow FBI agent Lisa Page.”
“In early 2019, to help move both committees’ oversight forward, Senator Grassley, who by then had become chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and I decided to combine efforts,” he said.
He said although they sent a series of oversight letters to numerous individuals, organizations, departments, and agencies between February 2019 and July 2020, the response time was “extremely slow” and “woefully incomplete.”
“Some of the slow response time and incomplete production of records can be legitimately attributed to classification issues and reviews. But I suspect there are other, more nefarious explanations,” he said.
“I don’t have polling data, but I doubt anyone could seriously dispute that a majority (probably a large majority) of career bureaucrats within federal agencies voted for Clinton and not Trump,” he added.
Johnson recalled the leaking of Trump’s phone calls with the prime minister of Australia and the Mexican president only two weeks into his administration:
Leaks of this nature are proof that individuals within the administration, the departments and agencies, have engaged in activities that seek to undermine the president’s policies. The unresolved questions surrounding the impeachment whistleblower complaint provide further evidence of this reality.
Johnson said it is not hard to imagine that officials still in high-level positions may be frustrating his and Grassley’s attempts to obtain information.
“Regardless of the cause, the slow-walking of producing documents for our investigation delayed our efforts and has prompted me to begin issuing subpoenas,” he said.
Johnson said a whistleblower complaint to the House Intelligence Committee alleging that Trump issued a quid pro quo to the Ukrainian president then raised more questions.
“The cooperation between HPSCI and the whistleblower remains murky, particularly in light of HPSCI Chairman Adam Schiff’s initial denial that his committee had contact with the whistleblower prior to the filing of the complaint — a statement Schiff later admitted was false,” he wrote. He said:
We do know from public reporting that there were connections between the whistleblower, an impeachment witness, and their former colleagues who ‘coincidentally’ left the executive branch and joined HPSCI staff around the time the whistleblower complaint was filed. Unfortunately, those connections, and any effect they might have had on the filing or pursuit of the complaint, have never been adequately explored.
Johnson said during this time, the public grew “increasingly curious about the facts and circumstances surrounding former Vice President Biden’s Ukraine responsibilities and the very obvious conflict of interest posed by his son, Hunter Biden, serving as a member of the board of Burisma — a Ukrainian gas company owned by an individual who is generally viewed as highly corrupt.”
“Because Chairman Grassley and I were already looking into allegations involving a Democratic National Committee operative and certain Ukrainian individuals, we were not going to turn a blind eye to this,” he said. Johnaon wrote:
We didn’t target Joe and Hunter Biden for investigation; their previous actions had put them in the middle of it. Many in the media, in an ongoing attempt to provide cover for former Vice President Biden, continue to repeat the mantra that there is ‘no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity’ related to Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board. I could not disagree more.
Johnson detailed the series of events that indicated wrongdoing:
On April 16, 2014, Vice President Biden met with his son’s business partner, Devon Archer, at the White House. Five days later, Vice President Biden visited Ukraine, and the media described him as the ‘public face of the administration’s handling of Ukraine.’
The next day, April 22, Archer joined the board of Burisma. Six days later, British officials seized $23 million from the London bank accounts of Burisma’s owner, Mykoloa Zlochevsky. Fifteen days later on May 13, Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma, with public reports showing Hunter and his firm being paid $50,000 to $166,000 per month (totaling more than $3 million over five years) for his and Archer’s board participation.
All of this initial activity in Ukraine involving the Bidens, Hunter’s business partner, and a corrupt oligarch and his Ukrainian gas company occurred over a period of less than a month, and within three months of the Revolution of Dignity — a revolution against corruption in Ukraine. Following that revolution, Ukrainian political figures were desperate for U.S. support. Zlochevsky would have made sure relevant Ukrainian officials were well aware of Hunter’s appointment to Burisma’s board. Isn’t it obvious what message Hunter’s position on Burisma’s board sent to Ukrainian officials? The answer: If you want U.S. support, don’t touch Burisma.
Johnson said the activity raised a host of questions, including:
1) How could former Vice President Biden look any Ukrainian official (or any other world leader) in the face and demand action to fight corruption?
2) Did this glaring conflict of interest affect the work and efforts of other U.S. officials who worked on anti-corruption measures?
3) Did Burisma, its owner, or representatives receive special access to, or treatment from, U.S. agencies or officials because of Hunter Biden’s role on the board of directors?
4) Was there anything corrupt or unethical about the financial transactions between Hunter Biden and Burisma?
5) How did State Department officials responsible for promoting anti-corruption measures in Ukraine react to Hunter Biden joining Burisma’s board of directors?
6) Exactly when, and for what reasons, did the U.S. government decide to condition a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine on the termination of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin?
7) What was the reaction within the Obama administration when the replacement prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, closed the case investigation of Burisma and its owner? Did Vice President Biden and other U.S. government officials believe that justice had been served and their anti-corruption efforts were successful?
Johnson said the appearance of family profiteering off of Biden’s official responsibilities extended also to China. He said public reporting has also shown Hunter Biden following his father into China and coincidentally landing lucrative business deals and investments there.
He called on Biden to answer questions, including:
1) Why did you meet with Devon Archer at the White House on April 16, 2014? What was discussed? Did you discuss anything related to Ukraine, Hunter Biden, or Burisma?
2) Were you aware that Devon Archer joined the board of Burisma six days later?
3) Were you aware that Burisma’s owner, Mykoloa Zlochevsky, was generally viewed as a corrupt oligarch and that his London bank account containing $23 million had been seized by British officials only 15 days before Hunter Biden joined the board of a company he owned?
4) Was Hunter Biden aware that British officials had seized Zlochevsky’s bank account?
5) When did you first become aware of Zlochevsky’s and Burisma’s reputations for corruption?
6) Do you believe Zlochevsky and Burisma are corrupt?
7) Were you aware in April 2014 that Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma?
8) When did you first become aware that Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma?
9) When did you first become aware of how much Hunter Biden was being compensated by
10) Why do you believe Burisma recruited and paid Archer and your son to be on its board?
11) What skills or knowledge do you believe Hunter Biden possesses that qualified him to be on Burisma’s board and receive $50,000 to $166,000 per month for his and his partner’s services?
12) What exactly had Shokin done that caused you to threaten to withhold $1 billion in desperately needed aid from Ukraine if President Poroshenko didn’t fire him?
13) What do you know about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China?
14) What do you know about financial benefits your brothers and sister-in-law have obtained because of their relationship to you?
Johnson said Democrats and many in the media have focused on his and Grassley’s oversight of Biden “in light of their almost maniacal devotion to ending the Trump presidency.”
“In their current attempt to circle the wagons around Biden, they have once again decided to weaponize a false ‘Russian disinformation’ narrative as a tool for attacking their political opponents,” he said. He added:
As Chairman Grassley and I have pointed out in rebuttals to their unfounded accusations, it is Democrats who have sought out and disseminated Russian disinformation. It was the Democratic National Committee, together with cutouts for the Clinton campaign, that paid for and helped peddle the Steele dossier. And now, once again, Democrats are falsely accusing Chairman Grassley and me of the very behavior they themselves are engaging in.
He reiterated revelations in DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s 478-page report, including an FBI attorney doctoring and using an email to mislead the FISA court, and the FBI ignoring the exculpatory evidence obtained during surreptitious recordings of campaign officials, deciding not to provide a defensive briefing to the Trump campaign, planting an FBI investigator in an intelligence briefing for candidate Trump, and withholding known and significant credibility problems related to the Steele dossier.
He said a member of his staff found evidence in Horowitz’s report that the FBI received intelligence reporting between October 2016 and February 2017 showing that parts of the Steele dossier were, in fact, part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
“This was critical exculpatory evidence that undermined the very premise of the investigation,” he said. “But as the FBI had done since the beginning of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, rather than using exculpatory information to end their investigation, the FBI ramped it up.”
Confidential human sources became FISA wiretaps; top FBI officials argued for inclusion of the unverified and salacious Steele dossier to be included in the body of the Obama administration’s Intelligence Community Assessment, and finally, the FBI investigation ballooned into a special counsel investigation. As a result, the Trump administration was tormented for over two years by an aggressive investigation and media speculation, all based on a false narrative. This has taken a tremendous toll on our country.
Much evidence of corruption by Obama administration officials has already been made public, but only a mere portion of it is described above. The role of other Obama administration officials and members of the intelligence community is murky — but legitimate suspicions and questions remain and must be answered. These include:
1) Why were so many top level Obama administration officials, including Vice President Biden, unmasking Trump campaign and transition officials? Some of the unmasking occurred only 10 days before President Trump’s inauguration?
2) Did the FBI’s use of campaign and transition briefings for investigative purposes, as well as its efforts to access presidential transition records, violate the law or otherwise undermine faith in the peaceful transfer of power?
3) What other intelligence reporting did the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team ignore?
4) Did any of these abuses precede the formal opening of Crossfire Hurricane?
5) And of course, the overarching question: Who knew what, and when did they know it?
Despite these lingering questions of Biden, Johnson said that since July 20, 2020, media reports have falsely accused him and Grassley of accepting Russian disinformation during their investigation, and that Democrats have echoed those accusations.
“They are running the same play, out the same playbook they have been using for the last three and a half years,” he said. “The only way I can counter these personal political attacks is to tell the truth and continue to conduct my committee’s investigations with the utmost integrity and transparency.
Johnson pledged not to be deterred: “Let me repeat. We will not be deterred by these coordinated and despicably false attacks. We intend to uncover the truth and make it public.”