Ron Johnson just did a massive flip-flop on 'secret society'

On Tuesday, Ron Johnson was hot on the trail of corruption at the highest levels of the FBI."What this is all ...

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 12:10 AM
Updated: Jan 26, 2018 12:10 AM

On Tuesday, Ron Johnson was hot on the trail of corruption at the highest levels of the FBI.

"What this is all about is further evidence of corruption, more than bias," the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview with Fox News Channel. "Corruption of the highest levels of the FBI. The secret society -- we have an informant talking about a group that was holding secret meetings off-site."

Johnson was referring to text messages exchanged between two senior FBI officials named Peter Strzok and Lisa Page during and after the 2016 election. In a part of one of those texts, Page wrote this: "Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society."

That, plus a source telling Johnson that the FBI was holding off-site meetings, convinced the Wisconsin senator -- as well as Reps. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, John Ratliffe of Texas and Matt Gaetz of Florida -- that something nefarious might well be going on, part and parcel of the "deep state" theory advanced by President Trump and others.

On Wednesday, Johnson was still beating the conspiracy drum -- albeit slightly more softly. "I, you know, I have heard, you know, from somebody who has talked to our committee, that there -- there is a group of individuals in the FBI that was holding secret, off-site meetings," he said in an interview on Fox. "And you know, again, that Strzok and Page calling it a certain term, I'm just saying, off-site meetings."

On Thursday -- yes, less than 48 hours after alleging corruption at the FBI -- Johnson was singing a very different tune. "It's a real possibility" that the "secret society" text was a joke, Johnson told my colleague Manu Raju.

He would not comment further about the secret society text and whether he owes an apology, according to Raju. Johnson would only say, "We will see what the next texts say."

What changed? The full context of Page's "secret society" text, which was sent the day after the election, came out. And here it is: "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." According to CNN reporting, the calendars Page references were a Vladimir Putin-themed gag gift. And there was never any mention before or after of the "secret society" in texts between Strzok and Page.

What else changed? The FBI, which had lost five months of texts, including those between Strzok and Page, found the Strzok-Page texts (and other texts from other people not at all involved with the Clinton or Russia investigations) on Thursday.

The point here is this: Johnson was way, way, way out over his skis earlier in the week. Consider:

1. The "secret society" quote was clearly without context. Even people like Gowdy admitted that he was unsure what "secret society" meant and whether it was a joke or not.

2. There was not and is not any evidence that the alleged off-site meetings cited by Johnson have anything to do with the "secret society" mention -- even if it was not, as now appears extremely likely, meant in jest.

Given the uncertainty surrounding these texts, Johnson's jumping to conclusions is remarkable. He is a sitting US senator who, based on a part of a text and someone telling him about alleged off-site meetings at the FBI, concluded that there was "corruption of the highest levels of the FBI."

That's serious stuff -- and the sort of thing that senators (and members of Congress) need to be above. The problem with using snippets of several different unrelated things to draw a conclusion about broad-scale corruption is that it makes it more difficult for actual moments of corruption or unethical activity in the future to be taken seriously.

Call it the senator who cried wolf.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 768624

Reported Deaths: 13993
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1055891807
Lake569801031
Allen43032699
St. Joseph37344568
Hamilton37335426
Elkhart29783470
Tippecanoe23503230
Vanderburgh23240405
Porter19580327
Johnson18843392
Hendricks18089323
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Monroe12575178
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Warrick8084157
Floyd8043182
Grant7378181
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Boone7211105
Morgan6924143
Marshall6345117
Dubois6283118
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Noble600890
Henry5958111
Jackson517277
Shelby511598
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Washington254637
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Martin92515
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Union73610
Ohio58411
Unassigned0429

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1125420

Reported Deaths: 20490
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1305631493
Cuyahoga1173952263
Hamilton825481261
Montgomery536581062
Summit489381014
Lucas43799834
Butler40064614
Stark33876939
Lorain26072510
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Mahoning22738613
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Clermont20425261
Delaware19169138
Licking16879227
Trumbull16829492
Fairfield16825207
Medina15880276
Greene15565254
Clark14366308
Portage13450218
Wood13358201
Allen12064245
Richland11748213
Miami11047228
Wayne9275228
Columbiana9216236
Muskingum9144137
Pickaway8755123
Tuscarawas8724255
Marion8716140
Erie8146166
Ashtabula7280179
Hancock7050135
Ross7031165
Geauga6975153
Scioto6726108
Belmont6224179
Lawrence5964104
Union591649
Jefferson5729162
Huron5644122
Sandusky5498130
Darke5448131
Seneca5380128
Washington5373111
Athens527260
Auglaize507787
Mercer491785
Shelby484397
Knox4621113
Madison448066
Ashland446198
Defiance439499
Fulton436875
Putnam4358104
Crawford4120111
Brown410462
Preble3956107
Logan392279
Clinton391466
Ottawa376481
Highland366668
Williams357378
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Guernsey331554
Jackson321954
Perry299050
Morrow294943
Fayette289350
Hardin279665
Henry277467
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Holmes2726102
Van Wert252365
Gallia251150
Adams250958
Pike244837
Wyandot235557
Hocking222963
Carroll201449
Paulding180142
Meigs151540
Monroe137945
Noble137939
Harrison115438
Morgan111724
Vinton87517
Unassigned04
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