Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) sounded an awful lot like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones during an appearance this week on Fox News.
Let’s break that down, shall we? Johnson said that an informant told him that there was a “secret society” of FBI agents who were meeting off site. The inference everyone took is that they were plotting to destroy the Trump presidency. He tied that to corruption at the highest levels of the FBI and suggested that since Mueller had once led that agency, he is in no position to do an investigation.
But Johnson’s story changed dramatically when he was questioned about it by someone who is not a reporter on Fox News.
Johnson: “I've heard from an individual that there were FBI agents … management of the FBI, holding meetings off-site.”
My Q: Off-site to do what, exactly?
Johnson: “I don't know. …(The texts) raise an awful lot of questions; it is my responsibility to try and get answers.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 24, 2018
According to ABC News, among the texts between two FBI agents that have caused such a stir, there is one in which Lisa Page wrote, “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.” Most people would recognize that as a joke, especially since there are no other texts between the two that refer to such a group.
Johnson paired that with information from an informant who told him about management at the FBI holding off-site meetings. Johnson went on to admit that he doesn’t have any information about the purpose of those meetings. I’d like anyone who has ever attended an off-site work-related meeting to raise your hand. Seriously, that is something that happens thousands of times a day in this country. But Republicans are so intent on finding a way to discredit both the FBI and the Mueller investigation that we’re getting fed conspiracy theories based on something so banal.
Despite Johnson’s retraction of his incendiary comments on Fox News, the mere mention of secret societies did the trick. The story has permeated right wing news. For example, Lou Dobbs used it to suggest that it’s time to declare war on the FBI and the Justice Department.
Good Lord. Latest from Fox/GOP is claims there's an FBI "Secret Society" working to overthrow President Trump. pic.twitter.com/62Lh62xtjP
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) January 24, 2018
It is interesting to contemplate what motivates these Republicans to go so completely off the rails. Of course Johnson isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and he is the politician that is pushing the unconscionable lie that Medicaid expansion fueled the opioid crisis, but the specter of what Mueller’s investigation will uncover obviously has a lot of Republicans spooked. We’re learning just how far some of them are willing to go to rile up the right wing base in rebellion against the findings.