Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has been at the forefront of raising fringe theories about President Biden’s son Hunter, the coronavirus, and the 2020 election results.
In recent weeks, he has come under further scrutiny for claiming in a series of radio interviews in his home state that the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol was not a “Armed insurgency” and for using his time at a Senate hearing to read a first-time account of someone who postulated that “provocateurs” and “false Trump supporters” were behind the attack.
Mr Johnson has a reputation as one of Washington’s most accessible and high-profile Republicans, regularly defending his point of view to the mainstream news media – something many of his GOP colleagues fail to do.
He spoke to The New York Times on Thursday about his theories on who was responsible for the Capitol attack and what he would like to see included in Congress’ investigation into it. The interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
You were on the radio recently to say it was not an armed insurgency. I was curious to know what the origin of this prospect was for you.
When I think armed, I think of firearms. And yes, we don’t know. I have no idea. This is one of the questions I have: How many firearms have been seen, have they been confiscated? How many shots were fired? I believe the only ones who were fired were from the police. And I said I would defend the police for taking action. I don’t understand what uproar is. But apparently there is an uproar somewhere. Someone is offended.
And I would say that if it’s rightly called an “armed insurgency,” it was a pretty ragtag. And again, I’m not taking issue with the destruction or the destructive capacity of things like masts and bats and that sort of thing, but again, words make sense.
Well, what do you think of who put together the group that stormed the Capitol?
I do not know and I ask the question. I’m not making any assumptions.
There are so many unanswered questions, which seems like a bit of the baseline in so many things that I’m trying to get to the bottom of. But here we are almost two months later, and there is only basic information missing here.
At the Senate hearing the other day you read The Federalist track it suggested that there were some sort of provocateurs and “false Trump supporters” who had plans to generate unrest from the crowd. And I asked myself, do you share this analysis?
I think it’s important, if we really want to understand the whole truth, to understand exactly what happened, we have to look at different points of view, different perspectives.
I read this article, I think, as soon as it was published, which was shortly after January 6th. And that intrigued me. Because there was an individual who, again, I didn’t know him at the time. In fact, I spoke to him yesterday for the first time. But I didn’t know who he was. Looks like he had a pretty good experience. He’s an instructor who focuses on this type of psychological warfare and that type of thing. So he seemed to be a keen observer.
And I was just mesmerized that he wrote his thoughts down, about 14, 15 pages, without looking at any news. So it’s a sort of spotless accounting. And these are really the kind of eyewitness accounts you want to examine. I’m not saying you accept everything. You don’t necessarily agree with his conclusions. I think you kind of have to take what he said he saw at face value.
Do you think, as federalist author Michael Waller wrote, that there were fake Trump protesters in the crowd?
That’s what he said he thought he saw. I think later in the article he didn’t see anyone he would have thought were bogus Trump protesters, he didn’t see them engage in violence. I think he writes that in his article. Yeah. I leave his independent testimony. I was not there.
Again, I am not drawing any conclusions. Again, many news articles assume, imputing all kinds of conclusions. They say I say things that I don’t say at all. All I’m saying right now is that we need to ask a lot of questions.
I wonder why you think it’s interesting to give an audience to Mr. Waller’s claims that there were either provocateurs or false Trump supporters in the crowd, given the lack of evidence.
I do not question its veracity. I think he’s probably telling the truth. That’s what he saw. I do not agree with any conclusion. I’m not sure he’s really drawing too many conclusions other than concluding that he saw four types of individual bands that stood out from the crowd.
This might be a flawed part of the evidence, but why exclude it? Just because it doesn’t necessarily tie into the story someone else wants to tell about the day? I’m not interested in stories, I’m interested in truth.
Some of your Republican colleagues in Congress have talked a lot about the involvement of Antifa or Black Lives Matter in instigating what happened. Do you share this conviction?
It doesn’t really seem like this is the problem. It seems, again, that everything is early, I didn’t draw any conclusions, but it seems that if there was any pre-planning by groups, it was white supremacist groups, like the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers, that sort of thing. This is what it appears.
I have seen videos of other people claiming to be antifa in their hotel rooms. I don’t know if this has been verified. But no, again, I’m not drawing any conclusions. But for now, it seems there have been provocateurs or agitators. It would appear that these are probably white supremacist groups that have already been named. But I didn’t speak to the FBI
You were with Maria Bartiromo and you spoke of being against violent extremists on the left or on the right. And it looks like you sort of landed on the position that it was right-wing groups that were involved in organizing what happened on January 6th.
It seems that these white supremacist groups seem to be responsible for it. I really condemn her. I mean, I’m not happy.
I have attended many Trump rallies. You talk to a lot of people. You see the vibe in these crowds. And it’s festive. It’s joyful. You love America. And it’s definitely for law enforcement and anti-breaking the law. Which is, again, why I certainly don’t suspect, even a large pro-Trump crowd, I didn’t expect any violence from them.
You said you wanted what you were saying to be correct. And you read Mr. Waller’s article, but you didn’t necessarily do your due diligence to see if what he was saying was verified.
What do you mean, checked? This is his eyewitness account. What else is there to check out on this? I read his credentials where he taught at Fort Bragg. I mean, you can see in the article what his credentials are. He looked pretty solid.
A few days later, the Washington Post wrote an article that came very close to describing things as Mr. Waller also did. From my perspective, it added credibility: what he saw, other people sort of saw, noticed, and drew similar types of conclusions. Again, this is just one piece of information that needs to be looked at, that needs to be considered, that needs to be tested, that needs to be verified, compared to other things.
Again, I am not afraid of information. I am amazed at the number of people. And how quickly people put the conspiracy theory label on something, or call it misinformation.
You said tens of millions of Americans did not trust the election results. I wonder, how much do you think this is because Republican leaders since President Trump have told them not to trust the election results?
I think there are several reasons for this. But I would say that the main reason is that they saw their television screens, the observers not being able to observe. They see in states where all of those other counties can get millions of votes, but in a few big counties in swing states, they just can’t get the total votes until 10 p.m. for some reason. It just raises a certain level of suspicion.
Well in Wisconsin is because –
It’s unfortunate that the mainstream media has proven to be so incredibly biased that people across the aisle, across the political spectrum, simply don’t trust them anymore. This is also part of the problem.
One last thing. Where are you at to be re-elected next year?
I haven’t decided. You don’t need to make up your mind for a while.
Do you have a timeline for this?
Yeah. But I’m not necessarily going to reveal it to you.