Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., an opponent of the GOP health care bill, heads to the chamber for a vote, on Capitol Hill.

Democratic leaders are raising concerns that a Senate investigation led by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Oshkosh, has become a tool for “laundering” a foreign interference campaign aimed at damaging Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Politico reported Monday.

In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, top Democrats warn of a foreign campaign to use disinformation in an effort to interfere with the 2020 presidential election by targeting members of Congress and are calling for an urgent briefing by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.   

“We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” reads the letter, which was released publicly on Monday.

The letter did not mention Johnson, but citing anonymous sources, Politico reported it included a classified attachment that identified Johnson’s probe as a source of concern.

The letter, which was sent last week, was signed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; Adam Schiff, chairman of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; and Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. All are members of the Gang of Eight, a group of eight lawmakers who get briefings on classified intelligence.

They urged the FBI to provide the briefing before the August recess.

“Given the seriousness and specificity of these threats, as members of congressional leadership and the congressional intelligence committees we believe it is imperative that the FBI provide a classified defensive briefing to all Members of Congress and that the briefing draw on all-source intelligence information and analysis, consistent with due regard for the protection of sensitive intelligence sources and methods,” they wrote.

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Asked about the Democrats’ warnings, Johnson told Politico, “They’re simply wrong.”

Johnson, who serves as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, reportedly added, “And Schiff is the last person to talk.”

Austin Altenburg, a spokesman for Johnson, accused Democrats of using “the threat of Russian disinformation as a weapon” to cast doubt on the probe for political reasons.

“Committee staff has already requested and received a staff briefing on this issue, and Senator Johnson has requested an additional briefing at the member level. That briefing has not occurred in part because the agencies requested additional information from the committee’s minority staff, which has not followed up on these requests since mid-May,” he said.

He added that the move does “a disservice to our election security efforts when Democrats use the threat of Russian disinformation as a weapon to cast doubt on investigations they don’t like,” and accused them of being silent about opposition research against the Trump campaign that contained disinformation.

Democrats and Republicans have repeatedly warned of 2020 election interference campaigns orchestrated by Russia other foreign powers.

The probe led by Johnson focuses on accusations that a Democratic public relations company attempted to influence the State Department under President Barack Obama by trying to use the fact that Biden’s son, Hunter, served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. 

Johnson has asked several former State Department officials to testify and reportedly may issue subpoenas as soon as this week if they refuse to voluntarily appear.

Contact Mary Spicuzza at (414) 224-2324 or mary.spicuzza@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MSpicuzzaMJS or Facebook at facebook.com/mary.spicuzza.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Democrats cite Ron Johnson probe in demand for FBI briefing



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