The hard-right Attorney General Bill Barr says that the FBI investigation Donald Trump’s entourage in 2016, amounted to “spying.” Left- wing columnist Matt Taibbi, says the Trump-Russia investigation was a “hoax.”
But that’s kind of last year’s debate.
In the 2020 election cycle it is hard to dispute Ryan Goodman and Asha Rangappa’s piece in Just Security documenting how Russians are seeking to support and advance the investigation of Trump ally Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Earlier this month, Johnson defended himself on a local Wisconsin news station saying, “What have I published, what have I reported on, that is not true, that is any form of Russian disinformation? There has been nothing.” Similarly, in his 11-page letter, Johnson asserted, “It is neither me, Chairman Grassley, nor our committees that are being used to disseminate Russian disinformation.”
The senator surely knows better, and his 11-page defense of his actions reveals it.
Published on Monday, Aug. 10, the letter itself contains apparent products of Russian disinformation. And while Johnson denies taking information directly from two specific Ukrainians linked to Russia and its disinformation efforts, he makes no mention of his staff taking information directly from one of those individuals’ principal collaborators.
Goodman and Rangappa show Johnson’s whole theory of the case is derived from these dubious sources. Johnson’s efforts emanate
in large part from an article by Kenneth Vogel in Politico in January 2017. The main thrust of the somewhat circuitous article is that Ukrainian officials were working with the DNC to promote Hillary Clinton. This bold claim appears to be almost entirely sourced by one person: Andrii Telizhenko. (More on him, below)
Since its publication over three years ago, Vogel’s account has been debunked by several outlets, including fact checks by the Associated Press, BBC, Washington Post (here, here, here), and the New York Times (where Vogel is now a reporter). Even Politico has backtracked on Vogel’s reporting, as others have observed. Nearly two years after his article appeared, Politico reported, “No evidence has emerged to support that idea.”