Johnson Tainted by Ukrainian Official?
Wisconsin's GOP Senator peddled 'malicious' disinformation by foreign operative sanctioned by Trump Administration.
Could things get any worse for Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson?
He has been getting criticism from all quarters, as Urban Milwaukee reported last week. And that was before a violent mob overran the U.S. Capitol, incited by Republican officials like Johnson, who have repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims that the presidential election results were fraudulent. Johnson has insisted he bears no blame for the insurrection, but “has faced blistering criticism from fellow Republicans,” not to mention from Democrats, as an AP story noted.
Now Johnson faces criticism on yet another front: his dalliance with a tainted Ukrainian official, Andrii Telizhenko.
On Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department “sanctioned a group of Russia-linked Ukrainians for trying to influence the 2020 election by attempting to smear President Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden,” as the Washington Post reported. Among the seven sanctioned was Telizhenko, “a political fixer and former low-level official in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington” who aided Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani in his effort “to dig up dirt on Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who worked for a Ukrainian energy firm, Burisma,” the story noted.
Telizhenko and the other six Ukrainians “have made repeated public statements advancing malicious narratives that U.S. Government officials have engaged in corrupt dealings in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday. And those malicious narratives were soon taken up by Johnson.
“Telizhenko sparked U.S. officials’ concern in early 2019 when he began promoting pro-Russian, anti-Biden narratives by sharing information with GOP lawmakers,” the story noted. “He told The Post last year that he cooperated extensively with an investigation” by Sen. Johnson. The two met to discuss the issue back in July 2019, as an earlier Post story revealed.
The information from Telizhenko was a key part of the the investigation by Johnson’s Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, which recycled the dirt peddled by Giuliani in an attempt to smear Joe Biden. The report was widely condemned by the media as a “hatchet job” whose 87 pages amounted to “little more than a rehashing of unproven allegations” and “contained no evidence that the former vice president improperly manipulated American policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed.”
Johnson spokesman Ben Voelkel told Urban Milwaukee that “the senator’s report relied almost exclusively on US government records and interviews with US individuals. Documents provided by Telezhenko were documents of Blue Star Strategies, a US lobbying firm, that the senator was able to verify independently.”
But Wyden sees it differently, charging that “The Senate was used to give credibility to foreign disinformation for the sole purpose of boosting Donald Trump’s campaign.”
The statement by Wyden was first reported by the Journal Sentinel.