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Sen. Johnson backs off 'secret society' claim

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee acknowledged Thursday that a reference made between two FBI em...

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 5:23 AM
Updated: Jan 26, 2018 5:23 AM

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee acknowledged Thursday that a reference made between two FBI employees of a "secret society" could have been said in jest as opposed to evidence of an anti-Donald Trump plot.

"It's a real possibility," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, told CNN.

Republicans have seized on the exchange

On Tuesday, Johnson suggested bias and potential corruption "at the highest levels of the FBI"

Republicans have seized on the exchange between FBI lawyer Lisa Page and FBI agent Peter Strzok, which was sent after the 2016 presidential election, as potential evidence of an anti-Trump bias at the agency. Strzok was a member of the team investigating Hillary Clinton's email server and, later, a member of Robert Mueller's special counsel team looking into Russia's attempted interference in the 2016 election.

"Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society," Page wrote to Strzok in a text message.

Sources familiar with the exchange told CNN later Thursday that the message contains a reference to a gag gift of Vladimir Putin-themed calendars that one of the employees purchased for those working on the early stage of the Russia investigation.

Later Thursday, Johnson would not comment further about the "secret society" text and whether he owes an apology.

"We will see what the next texts say," he replied. The Justice Department's inspector general informed lawmakers Thursday that a trove of missing text messages exchanged between the two FBI employees has been recovered.

Johnson seized on the "secret society" reference to call into question the objectivity of Mueller's investigation earlier in the week. Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday, Johnson suggested bias and potential corruption at the upper echelons of the agency.

"What this is all about is further evidence of corruption -- more than bias -- but corruption at the highest levels of the FBI," Johnson said.

The Republican senator said at the time he obtained his information from an informant.

"And that secret society -- we have an informant talking about a group that were holding secret meetings off-site. There's so much smoke here, there's so much suspicion," Johnson said.

Johnson confirmed to CNN Wednesday he spoke to an informant who told him about the "off-site" meetings FBI managers were holding. But he acknowledged not knowing what the meetings were about, suggesting he wanted to dig into the matter.

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, wrote a letter to Johnson Thursday calling for him to share the evidence he had obtained about the text message with her -- along with what appeared to be a hint of sarcasm over his allegations.

"You have now made serious and damaging allegations," McCaskill wrote. "I would assume that you would never make those kinds of allegations without serious and substantial hard evidence. If the committee has any evidence that the FBI is, as you have stated, biased and corrupt at the highest levels, I assume that evidence is strong in both quality and quantity, and extends far beyond a casual mention in a text message between two agents who were involved in personal crosstalk. And as ranking member of this committee, I deserve access to this evidence."

The Justice Department's inspector general informed lawmakers Thursday that a trove of missing text messages exchanged between the two FBI employees has been recovered.

Strzok and Page's attorneys have declined to comment to CNN.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 918230

Reported Deaths: 15011
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1252491952
Lake623371084
Allen52301746
Hamilton43009443
St. Joseph41155584
Elkhart32831485
Vanderburgh29698436
Tippecanoe26442247
Johnson23106414
Hendricks21708338
Porter21255340
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Vigo15562272
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LaPorte13961235
Delaware13613215
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Warrick10431174
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Floyd10099202
Wayne9557216
Grant8858194
Morgan8654158
Boone8231109
Dubois7521123
Henry7391126
Dearborn734186
Noble7208100
Marshall7168127
Cass7060117
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Jackson638980
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Gibson5999105
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Switzerland122310
Warren112616
Union92211
Ohio75811
Unassigned0461

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1319265

Reported Deaths: 21265
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1480641537
Cuyahoga1311202313
Hamilton948871307
Montgomery647451122
Summit548531041
Lucas49502853
Butler45993649
Stark39954963
Lorain30438525
Warren29170326
Mahoning25988629
Clermont24726278
Lake24088411
Delaware21722140
Licking19822239
Fairfield19780218
Greene19671266
Medina19208285
Trumbull19195506
Clark17188321
Portage15585224
Richland15540228
Wood15187208
Allen13654254
Miami13283244
Muskingum11821148
Wayne11448234
Columbiana11100239
Tuscarawas10388264
Marion10273144
Pickaway10162128
Scioto9766124
Erie9479170
Ross8979172
Lawrence8225116
Hancock8105140
Ashtabula8083184
Geauga7976155
Belmont7791183
Jefferson7093168
Huron7087125
Union703549
Washington6823116
Athens666163
Sandusky6608132
Darke6394135
Knox6308120
Seneca6113135
Auglaize569888
Ashland5631110
Shelby555799
Mercer545188
Brown533067
Defiance5278100
Madison527368
Crawford5148113
Highland514876
Fulton508781
Clinton505379
Logan494582
Preble4788110
Putnam4733106
Guernsey439057
Williams437281
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Ottawa425783
Perry414051
Jackson402259
Pike367140
Morrow359149
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Adams338864
Gallia329254
Holmes3148107
Henry312668
Van Wert299269
Hocking280467
Wyandot271858
Carroll250451
Paulding231742
Meigs197842
Monroe178649
Noble160340
Morgan153528
Harrison145740
Vinton130217
Unassigned05
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