Chuck Todd rips GOP senator for responding to Trump-Ukraine question with 'Fox News conspiracy propaganda stuff'

Kadia Tubman
Reporter

Chuck Todd slammed Republican Sen. Ron Johnson for bringing up “Fox News conspiracy propaganda stuff” on “Meet the Press” on Sunday when Johnson failed to directly answer a question about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Todd asked Johnson, R-Wis., why he said he winced “at the suggestion” that Trump withheld Ukraine military aid as leverage for an investigation into foreign interference during the 2016 presidential election. When Johnson began to change the topic to claim that the president was “set up” in part by FBI agents, former political opponent Hillary Clinton and Ukrainians, a conspiracy theory circulated by Fox News and conservative media, the Sunday show host quickly interrupted.

“I have no idea why a Fox news conspiracy, propaganda stuff, is popping up on here,” Todd said speaking over Johnson. “I have no idea why we’re going here.”

“Because this is underlining exactly what President Trump is upset and why his supporters are upset at the news media,” Johnson said.

“This is not about the media,” rebutted Todd, who then shouted to get the senator to respond to his original question.

“Senator Johnson, please!” Todd said, holding up his hand. “Can we please answer the question I asked you instead of trying to make Donald Trump feel better here that you’re not criticizing him.”

“I’m just trying to ask you a simple question about what made you wince,” Todd continued, speaking over Johnson. “You clearly were upset that somehow there was an implication that military aid was being frozen because the president wanted an investigation. Why did you wince?”

“Because I didn’t want those connected, and I was supporting the aid,” Johnson finally answered. “But here’s the salient point about why I came forward: When I asked the president about that he completely denied it. He adamantly denied it. He vehemently, angrily denied it. He said, ‘I would never do that.’”

“That is the piece of the puzzle I’m here to report today,” Johnson continued, “that unlike the narrative of the press that President Trump wants to dig up dirt on his 2020 opponent, what he wants is he wants an accounting of what happened in 2016, who set him up, did things spring from Ukraine?”

"Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd, left, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019.

Johnson, who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, went on to quote an article published by Politico in 2017, reporting that “Donald Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate whose campaign was boosted by officials of a former Soviet bloc country” and that Ukraine government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee by exposing ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“There is potential interference in the 2016 campaign, that’s what Trump wants to get to the bottom of but the press doesn’t want to,” said Johnson. “The people who wrote this article are being pilloried. I’m being called a conspiracy theorist. [Fox News contributor] John Solomon is being called a conspiracy theorist because the press is horribly biased. And Trump and his supporters completely understand that.”

“Look, I understand that the way to avoid answering a question is to attack us in the press,” Todd said.

Johnson insisted there be an investigation into the unfounded theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the previous presidential election on behalf of Clinton, including “trying to keep Vice President Biden out of the primary for the Democratic campaign.”

“So, senator, do you not believe the Russians interfered in the presidential elections to benefit Donald Trump?” asked Todd.

“They absolutely did,” Johnson answered. “And I don’t know to what extent the Ukrainians did. I don’t know to what extent the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign were involved in kind of juicing up the Ukrainian involvement as well. There are a lot of unanswered questions.”

When Todd asked the senator if he trusts the FBI and CIA, Johnson replied, “No, no I don’t. Absolutely not.”

Johnson said he didn't trust FBI and CIA officials from the Obama administration and went on to accuse Todd of setting up a “totally biased” interview.

“We don’t have enough time to go through all of the things I can talk about,” he said, to which Todd agreed, blaming the lack of time on the conspiracy theories.

“Senator, I don't know why you just came out here to personally attack the press and avoid answering questions about what’s happened here,” Todd said. “It's pretty clear we’re only dealing with the facts that we have, not the facts that you wish them to be.”

“That’s what I want to deal with and I can’t get the answers,” Johnson said. “Something pretty fishy happened during the 2016 campaign and the transition, the early part of the Trump presidency and we still don’t know.”

‘We do know the answers,” Todd interrupted. “You’re making a choice not to believe the investigations that have taken place, multiple.”

“I want to look at the entire truth,” Johnson insisted after Todd accused him of seeking truths that are “politically comfortable. ... I want the complete truth,” he said.

“So do we.” Todd replied. “I’m sorry that you chose to come on this way, senator,” he added, cutting Johnson off as the segment closed.

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