During a hearing on election fraud Wednesday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) torched Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) for falsely labeling the Hunter Biden scandal a Russian misinformation operation that Republicans helped spread.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held its first congressional hearing this morning to examine the irregularities in the 2020 presidential election.
“I just have to talk about Russian disinformation because the people peddling it are not on my side of the aisle,” Johnson snapped after Peters had questioned fired DHS cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs about foreign disinformation campaigns, and Trump’s “damaging” accusations of election fraud.
Senior Democratic leaders, including Ranking Member Peters, were involved in a process of creating a false intelligence product that was supposed to be classified. They leaked to the media that accused [Senator] Grassley, the president pro temp of the Senate, and myself, of accepting and disseminating Russian disinformation from Andrii Derkach. I never heard of the person until they brought it up. Senator Peters introduced that false information, Russian disinformation, into our investigation record,” Johnson said.
“Fifty people associated with the intelligence community, after our Hunter Biden investigation and the revelations of Hunter Biden computer, said, ‘Oh this is Russian disinformation.’ Now we found out, no it was a real investigation by the Justice Department. So it is just galling and I have to point out that the purveyors of Russian disinformation, Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the DNC, the Steele Dossier, Ranking Member Peters accusing Senator Grassley and I of disseminating Russian disinformation—that’s where the disinformation is coming, that’s where the false information, the lies, the false allegations. I can’t sit by and listen to this and say this is not disinformation, this hearing today,” he continued. “this is not disinformation in this hearing today. This is good information we have to look at to restore confidence in our election integrity.
“We’re not going to be able to just move on without bringing up these irregularities and examining them, and providing an explanation, and seeing where there really are problems so we can correct them and move forward.
Sen. Peters objected to Johnson’s accusations, arguing that he “had nothing to do with the report” alleging Russian disinformation.
“You lied repeatedly. You lied repeatedly in the press that I was spreading Russian disinformation, and that was an outright lie, and I told you to stop lying, and you continued to do it,” Johnson seethed.
“Mr. Chairman, this is not about airing your grievances. I don’t know what rabbit hole you’re running down,” Peters stammered.
The two sniped back and forth with Peters accusing Johnson of making “false allegations” and undermining the committee’s “great work.”
“It is what you have done to this committee,” Johnson shot back. “False; accusing the chairman of spreading disinformation. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and you’re spouting it again, which is why I had to respond.”
.@SenRonJohnson: "You lied repeatedly in the press that I was spreading Russian disinformation…I told you to stop…"@SenGaryPeters: "This is not about airing your grievances. I don't know what rabbit hole you're running down…"
— CSPAN (@cspan) December 16, 2020
In addition to Krebs, witnesses who testified at the hearing included Pennsylvania state Rep. Francis X. Ryan, Trump Campaign lawyer Jesse Binnall, Clinton-era independent counsel Ken Starr, and former Dane County Circuit Court Judge James Troupis.
Ryan told senators in his testimony that the state’s mail-in ballots system for the election this year “was so fraught with inconsistencies and irregularities that the reliability of the mail-in votes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is impossible to rely upon.”
He brought up how on Oct. 23, a petition from the Secretary of the Commonwealth ruled that mail-in ballots need not authenticate signatures “thereby treating in-person and mail-in voters dissimilarly and eliminating a critical safeguard against potential election crime.”
Ryan also talked about a pattern of inconsistencies in the state’s results, noting how in a data file received on Nov. 4, the Commonwealth’s PA Open Data sites reported over 3.1 million mail-in ballots sent out.
“But on November 2, the information was provided that only 2.7 million ballots had been sent out,” he said. “This discrepancy of approximately 400,000 ballots from November 2 to November 4 has not been explained.”
Jesse Binnall, one of the Trump campaign’s lawyers in Nevada, told the committee that “the election was inevitably riddled with fraud and our hotline never stopped ringing.”
“Over 42,000 people voted more than once,” Binnall alleged in his testimony. “Our experts were able to make this determination by reviewing the list of actual voters and comparing it to other voters with the same name, address, and date of birth.”
“Here is how it happened. On August 3rd, 2020, after a rushed special session, Nevada legislators made drastic changes to the state’s election law by adopting a bill known as AB4,” he said, referring to the state law that relaxed restrictions on mail-in ballots.
Binnall said his team was stonewalled in Nevada when they tried to obtain evidence from election officials to file lawsuits.
“Paper [ballot] backups that were supposed to provide such transparency” were not given to the team, he said. Across the “entire state of Nevada,” there was “zero transparency” from election officials, he said. Binnall filed a lawsuit challenging thousands of ballots in the Silver State before a judge rejected it on Dec. 4.
Ken Starr testified that Pennsylvania’s last-minute changes to election laws before the Nov. 3 election were violations.
“The principle here is … [the] Constitution is very clear that it is the prerogative of state legislatures to determine what these rules and laws are,” Starr told the Senate Homeland Security Panel. “And that was, I must say, flagrantly violated in Pennsylvania, and perhaps elsewhere as well.”
Witness Christopher Krebs, who directed the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) before he was fired by Trump, said in his testimony that the allegations about manipulation of the equipment used in the election are baseless, dangerous “and only serve to confuse, scare, and ultimately undermine confidence in the election.”
At one point during the hearing Sen. Paul asserted that “fraud happened,” and that “the election in many ways was stolen, and the only way it’ll be fixed is by in the future reinforcing the laws.
NeverTrump Sen. Mitt Romeny (R-Utah) boycotted the Dec. 16 hearing. “I’m not going to go to that. I don’t think it is productive at this stage,” he said during a recent appearance on CNN.
Because Trump Campaign challenges continue to make their way through the courts, Republicans in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, and Louisiana entered competing slates of electors for President Donald Trump on Monday. Electoral College members in all of the contested battleground states officially cast their ballots for Democrat Joe Biden.