Ron Johnson takes heat for saying Russia probe would help Trump in election

The Biden campaign called Johnson's conduct 'the definition of malfeasance'

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is taking heat from Democrats for saying his investigation into the conduct of intelligence agencies under the Obama administration would help President Trump win reelection in November.

"Ron Johnson just explicitly admitted that he is diverting the resources of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee away from oversight of the failing coronavirus response so that he can instead weaponize taxpayer money to, in his own words, 'help Donald Trump win re-election,'" Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden campaign's Rapid Response Director Andrew Bates told Fox News.

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Bates was responding to comments made in a radio interview by Johnson on Tuesday about the Senate Homeland Security Committee's investigation into the Russia investigation.

"The more that we expose of the corruption of the transition process between Obama and Trump, the more we expose of the corruption within those agencies, I would think it would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden," Johnson said in the radio interview.

The committee, of which Johnson is the chair, is investigating the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election -- specifically the decisions that led to obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on Trump campaign officials.

In a phone interview with Fox News on Thursday, Johnson said the committee is “absolutely” considering issuing subpoenas to top Obama officials, like former FBI Director James Comey and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, but that the committee is engaged in a “thoughtful process.”

The committee has also been investigating Biden’s actions in relation to Ukraine, specifically his role in the 2014 firing of a prosecutor who had previously investigated Burisma Holdings -- an energy firm where Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board.

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Johnson said in another radio interview, reported first by Politico, that the evidence his committee had uncovered was so “outrageous” that “it should completely disqualify Biden from president.”

On Wednesday he told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo, when asked about U.S. Attorney John Durham's investigation into the Russia probe, that “the wheels of justice unfortunately turn slow.”

“But we’ve got to speed it up because we got an election coming, and people have a right to know before they cast their ballot,” he said.

The Biden campaign accused Johnson of trying to revive a “comprehensively disproven rightwing conspiracy theory” and of having admitted to weaponizing taxpayer money to help Trump win reelection.

“This damning acknowledgment totally exposes that Ron Johnson's disgraceful conduct is the definition of malfeasance,” Bates told Fox News. “It is beyond time for him to end this embarrassing and deeply unethical charade once and for all - as a number of his Senate Republican colleagues have long wanted."

Johnson told Fox News on Thursday that some Republicans were “highly concerned” about how the investigation and the issuing of subpoenas would look “politically” -- but clarified that his colleagues were not blocking subpoenas.

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“There was an initial reluctance. Members of my committee had legitimate concerns, and I am not being critical of them,” Johnson explained. “We addressed the concerns, we narrowed the subpoena requests, and I agreed to do as much as possible to obtain testimony on a voluntary basis.”

Johnson’s committee this week subpoenaed FBI Director Christoper Wray as part of the review into the Russia investigation, calling for all records related to the initial Crossfire Hurricane investigation among other records related to the presidential transition.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.