Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) battled NBC News host Chuck Todd during a contentious interview over the weekend.
Appearing on the network’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, Johnson sparred with Todd over a variety of issues, including Hunter Biden’s laptop and President Joe Biden’s classified document scandal.
“Senator, do you have a crime that you think Hunter Biden committed because I’ve yet to see anybody explain?” Todd said. “It is not a crime to make money off of your last name.”
“I mean, Chuck, is it a crime to be soliciting and purchasing prostitution in potentially European sex trafficking operations? Is that a crime?” Johnson fired back. “Because Chuck Grassley and I laid out about $30,000 paid by Hunter Biden to those types of individuals over December of 2018, 2019, about $30,000. That’s about the same time that President Biden offered to pay about $100,000 of Hunter Biden’s bills. I mean, again, that’s just some information.”
Todd then tried to shift the focus to Democrats wanting to investigate former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, over his foreign business dealings.
“You know, part of the problem, and this is pretty obvious to anybody watching this, is you don’t invite me on to interview me, you invite me on to argue with me,” Johnson fired back after a brief back-and-forth exchange.
“I’m just trying to lay out the facts that certainly Senator Grassley and I uncovered. They were suppressed. They were censored. They interfered in the 2020 election. Conservatives understand that. Unfortunately, liberals in the media don’t. And that’s part of the things that — part of the reasons our politics are inflamed is we do not have an unbiased media. We don’t. It’s unfortunate. I’m all for free press.”
After several more moments of back-and-forth exchanges, Todd fired back, “Look, you can go back on your partisan cable cocoon and talk about media bias all you want. I understand it’s part of your identity.”
CHUCK TODD: And joining me now is Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He’s the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations. Senator Johnson, welcome back to Meet the Press.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: Well, Chuck, it’s been a while.
CHUCK TODD: It has. Let me start with — do you approve of Merrick Garland’s decision to appoint a special counsel to look into the Joe Biden classified documents?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: Well, I guess because he assigned one to President Trump, it was pretty inevitable. I’m not a real fan of special counsels. I did join 32 of my colleagues in calling for one for Hunter Biden because we had a whistleblower that said that Attorney Weiss doesn’t have the resources to do the type of investigation required. So, but in general, I’m not a fan of special counsels. I think the way we handle these investigations of wrongdoing — I’ll call it that — in the political realm is we just do it completely backwards. I think Congress ought to be able to have access to all the information, do their oversight. You know, I never held public hearings. We just, you know, did our investigation and then issued a report. If there is evidence of wrongdoing, then we should refer that to the Justice Department. Then the investigation should take place. What happens nowadays is the investigation begins, Congress never gets access to the information, and as a result, the American public never understands the truth of these situations. And so, again, we just do these investigations in the political realm with wrongdoing completely backwards.
CHUCK TODD: So, do you think though that — I mean, Congress has an oversight role. So shouldn’t Congress do their oversight role after an investigation is over? If doing it during the investigation, doesn’t that end up, either on purpose or inadvertently, interfere in the investigation?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: The problem is is Congress never gets access to the information. And by the time we do get access to the information, if we do, it’s all old news and the political figures aren’t held accountable. And from my standpoint, you know, I’d much rather have political figures held accountable with the truth being exposed of what they did, what their wrongdoing, as opposed to the criminal penalties. Oftentimes it’s very difficult to get any kind of criminal charges or convictions, particularly if you’re a Democrat in Washington D.C. So, from my standpoint, the more important imperative here is for the public to understand exactly what is happening inside government, inside of the administration. And we never find that out. And so, that is part of the problem we have in terms of our politics today is the American public remains in the dark. Misinformation is spread on all sides. And certainly from a conservative viewpoint, one of our frustrations is the censorship, the suppression of information primarily is coming from the left against the conservative viewpoint.
CHUCK TODD: So, I guess the problem that I feel like you run into with that decision is what you’re saying is if the Justice Department decides a crime wasn’t committed, they’re not going to prosecute a crime, it sounds like you still want the information out there because you want to politically damage the person that was investigated?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: No, Chuck, because a lot of political wrongdoing does not necessarily result in a crime, but it’s still wrong and the public needs to understand exactly what happened. So, you know, take a look at the political wrongdoing on the part of the FBI. They went to Twitter and they were censoring information. Take a look at the 51 intelligence operatives that issued a letter saying that the Hunter Biden computer was — had all the earmarks of a Russian information operation. That letter was an information operation. What happened? The FBI had access to Hunter Biden’s computer in December 2019. Senator Grassley and I were conducting an investigation during Covid — not the easiest thing to do. We were smeared. There were false intelligence products leaked to the media. We got unsolicited briefings from the FBI designed to smear me because they leaked it later. The FBI spent almost nine months setting up the ability to sabotage the Hunter Biden computer, should it ever surface, which it did the day after. We were offered Hunter Biden’s computer the day after Chuck Grassley and I issued our report. But we did our due diligence. We went to the FBI. “What do you know about this?” They never came clean with us. Mr. Mac Isaac ended up getting frustrated and offered that to Rudy Giuliani’s computer,and then — or to his attorney, and then to the New York Post. But again, nine months of the FBI setting up the process of sabotaging Hunter Biden’s computer, which we now know is authentic. Our investigation was accurate, but we were smeared. All that information was censored and suppressed. And the FBI, in their actions, impacted the election to a far greater extent than anything that Russia or China ever could have hoped to have accomplished. These are facts, and that’s all I’m interested in, is I’m interested in the truth. And I think the American public deserves the truth. And again, these investigations, they cover up the truth.
CHUCK TODD: Senator, senator, do you have a crime that you think Hunter Biden committed because I’ve yet to see anybody explain. It is not a crime to make money off of your last name.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: So, Chuck, you ought to read the Marco Polo report, where they detail all kinds of potential crimes. You know, Senator Grassley has certainly uncovered the —
CHUCK TODD: Oh, hold on, let me stop you there. Potential. This is — senator, potential is innuendo.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: About, about, about, about, $30,000 —
CHUCK TODD: This is why you do investigations.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: I mean, Chuck, is it a crime to be soliciting and purchasing prostitution in potentially European sex trafficking operations? Is that a crime? Because Chuck Grassley and I laid out about $30,000 paid by Hunter Biden to those types of individuals over December of 2018, 2019, about $30,000. That’s about the same time that President Biden offered to pay about $100,000 of Hunter Biden’s bills. I mean, again, that’s just some information. I don’t know exactly if it’s a crime.
CHUCK TODD: Here’s what I don’t get. All right, Senator —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: It doesn’t really look — it sounds sleazy as you know what.
CHUCK TODD: I’ll — I’ll take you, I’ll take you at your word that you’re ethically bothered by Hunter Biden. I’m curious, though, you seem to have a pattern —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: Are you not? Are you not?
CHUCK TODD: You seem to have a pattern. I’m a journalist. I have to deal in facts.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: Are you not?
CHUCK TODD: I deal in facts. Senator, my question to you is, I’m always worried, I have skepticism of both parties. I sit here with skepticism of a lot of people’s work —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: So do I.
CHUCK TODD: — and I’m curious, are you, were you at all concerned? This — Senate Democrats want to investigate Jared Kushner’s loan from the Qatari government when he was working in the government negotiating many things in the Middle East. Are you not as concerned about — are you not concerned about that? And I say that because it seems to me if you’re concerned about what Hunter Biden did, you should be equally outraged about what Jared Kushner did.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: I’m, I’m concerned about getting the truth. I don’t target individuals, target individuals. I target the truth.
CHUCK TODD: You don’t? You’re targeting Hunter Biden multiple times on this show, Senator.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: My concern — my — my —
CHUCK TODD: You’re targeting an individual.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: Chuck, Chuck. My concern — you know, Chuck. You know, part of the problem, and this is pretty obvious to anybody watching this, is you don’t invite me on to interview me, you invite me on to argue with me. You know, I’m just trying to lay out the facts that certainly Senator Grassley and I uncovered. They were suppressed. They were censored. They interfered in the 2020 election. Conservatives understand that. Unfortunately, liberals in the media don’t. And that’s part of the things that — part of the reasons our politics are inflamed is we do not have an unbiased media. We don’t. It’s unfortunate. I’m all for free press.
CHUCK TODD: Well, Senator —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: It needs to be more unbiased.
CHUCK TODD: Senator, look, this is —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: There’s misinformation on both sides —
CHUCK TODD: Look, go to partisan —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: — but the censorship and suppression —
CHUCK TODD: Senator — Senator — look, we’re trying to do issues here and facts.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: — primarily occurs on the left.
CHUCK TODD: Partisan cable —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: It’s frustrating.
CHUCK TODD: Look, you can go back on your partisan cable cocoon and talk about media bias all you want. I understand it’s part of your identity. Let me move to what happened in Brazil. And I want to play something that Former Vice President Mike Pence said about what happened in Brazil. “It is evident that what happens in the United States has repercussions around the world. I have no doubt that that tragic day in January of 2021 in this country played some role in sowing the seeds of what’s taking place in Brazil.” Do you agree with Mike Pence?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: I don’t know, did the 570 riots during the summer of 2020 play some part? I have no idea what the connection is. But again, Chuck, this interview is just —
CHUCK TODD: Armed insurrectionists attacking Congress, Steve Bannon, the Trumps.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: — you know, example A of what frustrates conservatives about —
CHUCK TODD: You don’t see any connection here at all?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: — the media.
CHUCK TODD: You don’t see any connection here at all?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: You know, Chuck, you know, Brazil is — Brazil is Brazil. There are issues in terms of election fairness in every election, so I can’t really comment on Brazil. And this is just a — again, I’m not making any connection.
CHUCK TODD: I’m curious — when it comes to that brief moment where you were handed the potential of alternative electors, and you say it was a brief moment —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: I wasn’t.
CHUCK TODD: Are you being — have you —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I wasn’t. That’s, that’s false. I was, I was never handed — I — that’s not — you are incorrect.
CHUCK TODD: I know you weren’t handed it. They were asking to hand it — handed it — hand it to you and you were —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: No. So Chuck let me —
CHUCK TODD: — obviously contemplating it, and obviously your staffer was dealing with it.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: No. No. No. Chuck, Chuck I never was. I was contacted by the attorney of the president of the United States. He had something he wanted to deliver to the vice president, could I arrange it? So, I contacted my chief of staff who worked in the White House, see if he could do it. I had no idea what they wanted to contact — what they wanted to hand the president or the vice president. Within an hour, we found out the vice president wasn’t accepting anything, end of story. Nothing was delivered. I had no idea what I was being contacted to deliver, and we never delivered it.
CHUCK TODD: Have you ever been interviewed —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: There’s no story there. There never was a story there. And everything I’ve always said about that has proven to be true, even though the media lied about it.
CHUCK TODD: Have you been interviewed by the FBI or, or, or the special counsel’s office —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: No.
CHUCK TODD: — investigating the alternative electors?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: No, there’s, there — there’s — no, there is nothing to interview me about. I played no role in it whatsoever.
CHUCK TODD: Do you know why Congressman Kelly thought you were going to be the best person to hand the slate of electors to?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: I have no idea. But remember, Congressman Kelly denied initially that his office was involved in trying to get those — that information to the vice president. I told the truth about that. He lied about it, and I was smeared for about a week and a half and by the way, it’s never been corrected.
CHUCK TODD: Meaning the Congressman? You believe the Congressman lied. To you? Or lied about your role?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: You, you, you, you — he, he lied about his, his non-role. His office did play a role in this. That’s what I suspected. Again, this was such a non-event for me. I had a hard time — we had to go back and really scour our records to find out what happened. And Chuck, you started this questioning falsely. You falsely accused me of getting those and I never, I never took possession. I never had them. Okay? So again, this is, this has been a complete smear job against me. So, again, this has been a complete smear job against me. The January 6th Committee —
CHUCK TODD: You say this. You dabbled in so much of this —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: — did not do their due diligence like Chuck Grassley and I did during our —
CHUCK TODD: You dabbled in so much of this —
SEN. RON. JOHNSON: Go ahead.
CHUCK TODD: Do you understand why somebody might have thought you were willing to go along with the scheme?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: Well, I had — I did not dabble in very much of this. It’s just false.
CHUCK TODD: “Very much” is doing a lot of work there.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: I held a hearing in December 2020 examining the irregularities of the 2020 election. What you ought to do is go back and read my opening statement. And that pretty well lays out exactly what I thought about the 2020 election. But the news media never does that. They smear me. They lie about me. They make these things up. And then that becomes, that becomes the narrative. It’s a false narrative. Most of the things I — everything I’ve said that I’m aware of has panned out to be true. The things I am accused of, providing misinformation, have been true, time and time again. I’m happy to come on in a longer format and we can go over this point by point if you’d like to do it –
CHUCK TODD: Well, as I’ve always said, look, remote interviews —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: — where I can refute every lie told about me.
CHUCK TODD: — remote interviews are never easy when there’s a back and forth. And that, I think, that is a fact —
SEN. RON JOHNSON: So have me in studio. Happy to do it.
CHUCK TODD: — for a lot of folks. We would love to have you in studio. Always want you here. Last question. Donald Trump’s been a candidate for office for a couple of months. You have not endorsed him. Do you plan on it?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: I don’t endorse candidates. I let the voters decide that. I don’t make endorsements.
CHUCK TODD: You’re not going to endorse anybody in the presidential race?
SEN. RON JOHNSON: I don’t make endorsements.
CHUCK TODD: All right. Senator Ron Johnson, I look forward to our face-to-face at some point. Thanks for coming on and sharing your perspective with us.
SEN. RON JOHNSON: So do I.