Sen. Ron Johnson on Why He Couldn’t Turn His Back on America

Sen. Ron Johnson on Why He Couldn’t Turn His Back on America
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) speaks during an interview with The Epoch Times at his office in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington on March 21, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
March 30, 2024
April 04, 2024

The United States’ most serious problem in 2024 is too many officials in the nation’s capital covering up deeply entrenched corruption in many corners of the government.

That’s according to Sen. Ron Johnson, (R-Wis.), who had planned to leave Congress in 2022 after his second term but said he changed his mind because “our country is in peril.”

“I couldn’t turn my back on it. But in particular, nobody else was advocating for the vaccine injured,” the lawmaker told The Epoch Times, referring to people who suffered serious maladies after being vaccinated against COVID-19, including myocarditis and blood clotting.

Mr. Johnson pointed to “the sabotage of early treatments” for COVID-19 and “the vilification of doctors who had the courage and compassion to treat COVID-19 patients.”

He spoke of the “coverup of vaccine injuries” and the harm to the reputations of credible doctors who dissented from the government’s official narrative about the virus that originated in China.

Mr. Johnson lays a lot of blame on federal agencies.

“We have a Food and Drug Administration that is thoroughly captured by Big Pharma, by Big Agriculture,” he said.

“And we have the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] that is also captured by them and ... It’s just astounding how much they’re covering up.”

The Wisconsin lawmaker said he believes that “we actually need federal health agencies to guarantee food and drug safety.”

“We need a CDC that gathers data on health and then transparently provides that information,” he said.

“We don’t have that right now.”

Sen. Ron Johnson speaks during an interview with Epoch Times reporter Mark Tapscott at his office. Mr. Johnson changed his mind about serving only two terms and defeated Wisconsin's Democrat Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to keep his seat in 2022. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Reflective of U.S. politics’ transitional period, Mr. Johnson’s comments about federal agencies being captured by special interests sound very much like those of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate and nephew of the 35th president.

Asked about this, Mr. Johnson said he “completely agrees with RFK Jr.’s assessment of regulatory capture.”

The Beginning

Before entering politics, Mr. Johnson rose through the ranks of PACUR, a plastics manufacturing company, to become CEO in 1985, then he bought the company in 1997.

His first tax-paying job, at the age of 15, was as a dishwasher at a Walgreens grill.

Now 67, he said he never expected he'd be one of the Senate’s most determined investigators. But he couldn’t keep silent when he saw so many wrongs.

He was part of the Tea Party wave of 2010, handily defeating a rising Democrat star, then-Sen. Russ Feingold, by nearly five points. He won a second term by winning a rematch with Mr. Feingold in 2016 by more than three points. He hinted before the second victory that two terms would be his limit.

Being an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump and a powerful voice against secrecy and corruption in the federal government, the Wisconsin Republican angered Democratic critics in the Badger State and nationally when he changed his mind about seeking a third term.

He did so despite being widely considered the most vulnerable Republican Senate incumbent in 2022. Even so, Mr. Johnson defeated Democrat Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes by a 1 percent margin, while being outspent $41 million to $35 million. In a state that’s tough for a conservative Republican to win, Mr. Johnson has done so three times.

Mr. Johnson’s passion for transparency and accountability in government was first vividly demonstrated in February 2015, shortly after Republicans regained a Senate majority in the November 2014 elections.

One of his first acts as chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs was to launch an investigation into the deeply troubled Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility at Tomah, Wisconsin.

A World War II Army veteran receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Veterans Affairs long-term care facility in Vancouver, Wash., on Dec. 17, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Like many other VA facilities around the nation, the Tomah VA Medical Center suffered from chronic problems, including poor service to veterans desperately seeking critical treatment, substandard care of patients, and a rising chorus of allegations of dangerously irresponsible management of drug prescriptions.

The problems in the facility were known as early as 2007, but fear of losing their jobs kept all but a few employees from reporting what they knew. Things were so bad that a key Tomah VA doctor was known informally as the “Candy Man” for over-prescribing and refilling opioid drug prescriptions.

A lengthy investigation by the VA’s Inspector General (IG) ended without the issuing of a public report.

Then, in August 2014, Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski died from a drug overdose while at the Tomah VA facility. Autopsy results revealed a dozen different drugs in Mr. Simcakoski’s system, and “mixed drug toxicity” was listed as his cause of death.

Mr. Johnson’s investigation consumed months, thanks to bureaucratic resistance from within the VA, in particular the IG’s office, and included two field hearings at Tomah. Mr. Johnson was forced to issue a subpoena to obtain the IG’s case files to get to the bottom of the deadly scandal.

A senior congressional investigator who said he remembers the investigation told The Epoch Times, “There was no predetermined outcome to that investigation.”

One of Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-Wis.) first acts as chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs was to launch an investigation of the deeply troubled Department of Veterans Affairs facility at Tomah, Wis. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

“It was: What are the facts? Where do we get the facts or the evidence from? And what steps do we have to take to do that?” the investigator said.

“And [Mr. Johnson] ended up having to subpoena the IG office—the IG that spiked the report.”

The investigator noted that the probe occurred during Mr. Johnson’s first reelection campaign, but he said: “There was never a discussion of ‘I need this by X or this resolved by Y.’ Whatever the truth was, whatever the facts were and we spoke to everyone who wanted to speak on the issue.”

Among the most serious problems highlighted in the 376-page committee report on the Tomah investigation was the widespread fear among VA employees at the facility of blowing the whistle on wrongdoing.
Mr. Johnson spearheaded a bipartisan drive that resulted in unanimous Senate passage of the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act in October 2017. Mr. Kirkpatrick had taken his own life after suffering intense reprisals, including being fired, for blowing the whistle on the overmedication of veterans at Tomah.

The act strengthens penalties against federal employees who retaliate against whistleblowers, adds protections for probationary employees, and ensures that federal workers across the country have a greater knowledge of the multiple whistleblower protections available to them in the law.

Beginning in 2019, the Wisconsin Republican—often acting in concert with then-Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)—has also been a driving force behind multiple congressional probes into President Joe Biden, his son, Hunter, his brother James, and his associates with clients in China, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and elsewhere.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) join others in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance on Capitol Hill on Feb. 9, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
In a Senate floor speech on March 22, 2022, Mr. Johnson described in detail the cash flows back and forth of $2 million between Chinese energy firm CEFC China Energy and U.S. shell firms connected with Hunter Biden. Prominently linked to CEFC and Hunter Biden was an individual named Patrick Ho, who was reportedly described by Hunter Biden in a voicemail as the “spy chief of China.”
In an October 2022 letter to then-Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, the two senators noted that federal officials obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “indicating [Ho’s] potential counterintelligence threat to the United States.” Mr. Weiss was subsequently appointed special counsel in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Hunter Biden probe.

“On Nov. 2, 2017, Patrick Ho’s company CEFC wired $1 million to Hunter Biden’s company, Hudson West Three,” Mr. Johnson said. “On March 22, 2018, Hudson West Three wired $1 million to Owasco, another Hunter Biden company. The bank record clearly states the $1 million payment was being made for the purpose of representing Patrick Ho. Represent him for what?

“Here’s where things get interesting. We know that Patrick Ho was arrested by U.S. authorities in November 2017 for international bribery and money laundering charges. Keep in mind that this arrest occurred in the same month that Patrick Ho’s company, CEFC, is wiring $1 million to Hunter Biden’s company, Hudson West Three.

“According to the Department of Justice ‘Ho orchestrated and executed two bribery schemes to pay top officials of Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for CEFC China, a Shanghai-based multibillion-dollar conglomerate that operates in multiple sectors, including oil, gas, and banking.’ Crimes for which he was eventually convicted and sent to federal prison.

Hunter Biden (C) and his lawyer Abbe Lowell (R) leave a House Oversight Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 10, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

“So, the company that Patrick Ho was making bribes for sends $1 million to a company Hunter Biden manages and is invested in. That company in turn transfers $1 million to another Hunter Biden company for the purpose of representing Patrick Ho, who was eventually convicted of international bribery and money laundering.”

Mr. Johnson and Mr. Grassley asked the DOJ in 2021 for documents related to Mr. Ho, but nearly three years later none of those materials have been provided.

Patrick Ho, whose company CEFC wired $1 million to Hunter Biden’s company, Hudson West Three, was convicted of international bribery and money laundering. (AP Photo)

Virus Origin

More recently, the Wisconsin Republican has focused on Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra with regard to the origins of the COVID-19 virus.
In a March 15 letter, he accused Mr. Becerra of obstructing legitimate congressional oversight and demanded that he produce copies of internal HHS communications concerning federal health officials’ knowledge of the possible origins of the virus and U.S. funding of coronavirus research in China.
The information had originally been requested nearly three years ago by Mr. Johnson and four colleagues on the Homeland Security committee, including GOP Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Rick Scott of Florida.

“As you are aware, congressional oversight is not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) redactions. In September 2021, my office identified approximately 400 pages of priority records that we requested to review unredacted,” Mr. Johnson wrote to Mr. Becerra in the March letter.

“Despite your own assertion that I am ‘absolutely entitled to the information that by law a member of the Senate or the House should get,’ nearly three years after my initial request, the complete contents of approximately 50 pages of priority records are still hidden under HHS’s heavy redactions.”

Mr. Johnson’s pursuit of transparency and accountability in government has won him both friends and foes in and out of the Senate.

The Senate side of the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 16, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
“In the haze of swampy Washington politics, where promises are cheap and reliable friends are priceless, Senator Johnson says what he does and does what he says,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told The Epoch Times. “Everyone in Congress talks about standing up for the right thing when under attack, but few have made a career out of doing it.”
Similarly, Sen. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) told The Epoch Times: “Ron is a principled conservative who fights tirelessly to fix what’s broken in Washington and expose how the left’s agenda hurts job creators and working families. It’s an honor to serve alongside him.”

Outside of Congress, Article III Project founder Mike Davis praises Mr. Johnson for having “an unwavering commitment to conservative and populist principles, particularly in his dedication to rigorous government oversight on behalf of the American people.”

“Johnson consistently promotes transparency and accountability, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently,” he said.

Mr. Davis credits Mr. Johnson, along with Mr. Grassley, with exposing the falsehoods underlying the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation of allegations that former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign coordinated with elements of Russian intelligence.

“Sen. Johnson and Sen. Grassley are at the forefront of the fight against the anti-Trump Crossfire Hurricane investigation. Johnson rightly pointed out that the records relied on unverified and debunked allegations from dubious sources who were paid by national Democrats to get Trump,” he said.

“Johnson was also at the forefront of investigating why Igor Danchenko, a source for the anti-Trump dossier, was on the FBI’s payroll and working on the government’s heavily biased investigation into President Trump.”

Mainstream media's reporting of Sen. Ron Johnson was often biased after he stated that VAERS data showed deaths after getting vaccinated. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

But there’s a price for standing up.

“We were falsely accused by Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and by Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) of soliciting and disseminating Russian disinformation,” Mr. Johnson said.

“That was complete BS, but the press ran with it. We had more than 100 articles written about how we were being used as tools for Putin spreading Russian disinformation when we finally issued a report.”

Nothing in the report has ever been disproven, according to Mr. Johnson.

“Of course, we never got an apology,” he said. “We’ve never gotten any retraction and, of course, the media was by-and-large silent.”

Corporate media treatment of Mr. Johnson, especially on COVID-19-related issues, is often inaccurate and biased, according to supporters. For example, on May 12, 2021, The Washington Post accused Mr. Johnson of claiming that an estimated 3,000 post-COVID-19 vaccination deaths reported by the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) were caused by the vaccine.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says this data does not establish cause and effect between coronavirus vaccinations and reported deaths. A range of experts on immunology told us Johnson was misusing the data and exaggerating the known risks of getting the shot,” the analysis claimed.

A medical assistant holds a tray of syringes filled with the COVID-19 vaccine ready to be administered in Los Angeles on Feb. 16, 2021. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

However, Mr. Johnson claimed not that there was a cause-and-effect relationship between getting the vaccine and suffering a fatal effect, but rather that VAERS data showed that deaths occurred after vaccination.

He said during a Wisconsin radio interview: “We are over 3,000 deaths of, after, within 30 days of taking the vaccine. About 40 percent of those occur on day zero, one, or two.”

Regardless of such coverage, Mr. Johnson has made clear that he intends to continue his investigations. If Republicans retake the Senate majority in the November election, odds are he will return to chair the Homeland Security committee’s permanent oversight subcommittee.

Asked about whispers that he might be interested in succeeding departing Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Mr. Johnson told The Epoch Times he is for now focused on better defining the GOP conference’s mission statement.

“I’m right now leading an effort to engage in a process to identify and have the conference come to consensus about: What are we about? What do we stand for? What are we willing to fight for?” he said.

“I call that a mission statement. ... Developing a mission statement, guiding principles, goals. And I’m hoping that from that process leaders and a leader will emerge.”

Republican senators met March 20, with Mr. McConnell’s blessing, in a closed session sought by Mr. Johnson to define such a mission statement.

“The process received very good input from a broad spectrum of people that usually don’t agree on things but brought in some really good input,” he said.

“So I think my initial mission was accomplished in that people realized, ‘No, we need to go through this. We need a different governing model, a far more collaborative one, utilizing the talents of the people in here, the brainpower trying to define roles for people.’”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) stands in his office in front of a clause from the 10th Amendment written on his wall: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)