In this phone interview, we speak with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, to discuss the Hunter Biden scandal and the email evidence provided by Tony Bobulinski, a former business partner of the Bidens.
Jan Jekielek: Senator Ron Johnson, so great to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Sen. Ron Johnson: Happy to be here.
Mr. Jekielek: Senator Johnson, you’ve been with Senator [Chuck] Grassley leading a senate investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and in China, and related potential conflicts of interests. What I want to ask is, what exactly are you looking for?
Sen. Johnson: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to point out that we never set out to have the Bidens be an objective of an investigation. My own investigations began in terms of corruption in the Obama administration with the Hillary Clinton email scandal, and somewhat morphed into, did morph into, the corrupt investigation of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigations.
But specifically in terms of Ukraine, Senator Grassley really began that based on an article written by Ken Vogel, where their allegations made that Alexandra Chalupa working for the DNC [Democratic National Committee] might have been working with certain Ukrainians and potentially interfering in our elections.
At some point in time, we combined our investigatory efforts along that whole front and during the impeachment process, it came to light that Hunter Biden was a board member of Burisma [Holdings]. Joe Biden himself bragged to the council foreign relations that he’s the one that forced [Viktor] Shokin [former Prosecutor General of Ukraine] to be fired—otherwise, he threatened to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee.
So that just was such a glaring conflict of interest as we were looking into a potential, not government of Ukrainian interference in our election, but just what types of conflicts of interest, what type of interference have they been by certain Ukrainians, and so we started looking into that. My committee’s jurisdiction is, first and foremost, we are the Senate oversight committee, oversight of jurisdiction has to do with conflict of interest, among many other things, but we are specifically charged with investigating certain areas of conflict of interest.
Again, as a BuzzFeed reporter now in one of the more recently released interviews or email shows, back in May, I think May 13, 2014, I wrote a letter to the Executive Office of the President, one of his contacts there, saying that the fact that Hunter Biden just was appointed to the Board of Burisma is odd on its face and certainly if true, is a glaring conflict of interest, the exact same words I used in our report.
So that is sort of the history of how we started investigating that glaring conflict of interest, and I think it’s pretty notable the fact that the mainstream media, represented by BuzzFeed back in May of 2014, thought it was a glaring conflict of interest. Now, they just look the other way, saying, “Oh, no wrongdoing here.”
Mr. Jekielek: What about with the administration back in 2014? What happened subsequent to that?
Sen. Johnson: Define your question further. Nothing happened to it. Everybody knew it was a glaring conflict of interest. People like George Kent were highly concerned about it. Amos Hochstein was a special envoy over to Ukraine. Those are the only two individuals who ever raised it with somebody in the executive vice president’s office now. George Kent never spoke directly with the vice president. Amos Hochstein did, and that’s the only person we be able to find that actually spoke directly to the vice president about this glaring conflict of interest.
The reaction, by the way, is documented in testimony by Amos Hochstein, is that the vice president then spoke to Hunter Biden about that and suggested that Hunter Biden set up a meeting with Amos Hochstein, which proves that Vice President Biden bold-face lied when he said that he never spoke to Hunter Biden about his overseas businesses.
Amos Hochstein testified that he obviously had to speak to Hunter about that because he set up a meeting between Hunter and Amos Hochstein to talk about that conflict of interest. With new emails now, new revelation, Tony Bobulinski is now talking about actually having a meeting with Hunter and Vice President Biden, specifically to be talking about the Chinese investment business. So that’s another proof of the lie.
But let’s face it, I never believed Vice President Biden who traveled overseas with Hunter on Air Force Two, how many hours of that flight. Hunter obviously had a separate agenda during that trip and did arrange, by the way, for a handshake with Jonathan Li [Li Xiangsheng, Chief Executive of BHR (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Company], one of his future business partners. It was just right after that trip that their business license for the firm that they created during that trip was approved.
Again, further proof that Vice President Biden lied to the American public when he said that he never spoke to Hunter Biden about his overseas business dealings, which of course is trying to throw everybody off the trail—”I had no idea this stuff was happening.” I think every day that goes by, more emails being revealed, it becomes more and more obvious that the vice president lied and was probably more involved in these overseas businesses than anybody currently is aware.
Mr. Jekielek: You, of course, published this report earlier, the “Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption: The Impact on U.S. Government Policy and Related Concerns.” What was the media response to that from your perspective?
Sen. Johnson: There was no response. It was basically completely ignored. Although the lead up to the report, there were all kinds of stories written about how Chuck Grassley and I had engaged in accepting and then disseminating Russian disinformation—nothing could be further from the truth.
What happened actually is Democrats, senior Democrats, created an intelligence product which John Ratcliffe said that they had no knowledge of, no involvement, in a false allegation, a false intelligence product that then they leaked to the media a week before Senator Grassley and I even had the notice of it, falsely accusing us of accepting information from Andriy Derkach.
Just today, we got a letter from our ranking members, [Sen. Gary] Peters and [Sen. Ron] Wyden, still claiming, still lying about the fact that Chuck Grassley and I accepted the information. I never heard of Andriy Derkach, I’ve never met with him, we never accepted any information, and we never did, and there’s really no proof because we never did. The only Russian disinformation in our investigation was entered by Senator Peters and his staff when they took Andriy Derkach’s chart that they entered into our record.
In terms of other investigatory records, the only other Russian disinformation, for example in Crossfire Hurricane, was bought and paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign, and that was the Steele dossier that the FBI knew full well. Sub-sources were suspected Russian agents that the FBI had investigated in 2009. They knew there’s Russian disinformation and that is as early as January —actually, in October 2016.
They knew for sure by January 2017, yet the investigation continued, resulted in a special counsel, $48 million spent, and this nightmare, this political nightmare that this administration and our country’s gone through as a result of the false allegations, the false claims, Democrats lying through their teeth like Adam Schiff—that he knew that he had evidence of Russian disinformation when he had none.
Of course, the mainstream media is carrying the Democrats water. And now, in hindsight, even though they knew that they were fed false information, they haven’t outed the sources that actually fed them false leads.
Mr. Jekielek: Senator Johnson, you have obviously a whole series of new sources of information. You’ve actually, I think, requested information from Hunter Biden himself. There’s this laptop that the New York Post has been reporting on. There’s the Bevan Cooney emails and of course, Tony Bobulinski and his phones. Do you have access to those phones now and are there any other sources of information that you’re looking at beyond what I just said?
Sen. Johnson: We never got the [hard drive] from the Delaware computer shop owner. He talked to us. He’s an anonymous whistleblower until he went public and turned that computer drive over to, in the end, the New York Post. [They] verified his [claim] to their satisfaction, and started publishing stories, so now we obviously have access to what we see in the press there.
The Bevan Cooney Gmail account has been given access to Peter Schweizer, and so he’s downloading that and revealing emails. What we are doing now—we do have access to Tony Bobulinski’s information. He provided a thumb drive to our committee yesterday, and we’re going through, and we’re validating. What I can say about all of those sources: we continue to do our due diligence to verify and authenticate the genuineness of those emails, and to date we have found nothing that disputes them. All we found is verification, validation of their authenticity.
Mr. Jekielek: He was saying that he was passing these phones on to, presumably, the FBI, and is it also to your committee?
Sen. Johnson: The FBI will have the phones. We were actually scheduled to have our first informal interview with Mr. Bobulinski this morning at 10 but the FBI contacted him and his attorney, because they want to turn the phones over to the FBI, but the FBI also wanted to interview him, so his attorney thought it’s probably best to go speak to the FBI first. But we will schedule our interview with him as soon as possible. I don’t know Mr. Bobulinski’s schedule. I know he’s in D.C. here today. So hopefully, we can schedule that early next week.
Mr. Jekielek: What is your expectation on the timeline for this report on these new findings, or is this going to be an updated report of the previous one?
Sen. Johnson: In the past, when we get information that’s verified, for example, the Strzok-Page texts, there’s no reason to issue a report. Not much you can really do other than to show the American public the information. My guest, just as you’re seeing the New York Post, and Peter Schweizer, and other news outlets that, by the way, also have gotten much if not all the same information we got from Mr. Bobulinski. He’s gotten quite public with this.
When we see things that we think are relevant that the public needs to see, we’ll probably just make that public, but not until we are assured that we verified and authenticated whatever it is that we release.
Mr. Jekielek: You and Senator Grassley have also been critical of how the big social media companies have been handling this whole new trove of information.
Sen. Johnson: Yes. I think that we’re really looking at three different scandals here. I think we’re looking at the scandal of the Biden family’s international business entanglements, and I think it’s much larger than what is certainly known right now and certainly deserves further investigation. We just scratched the surface. I never claimed that our report answered all the questions—far from it. I think our report raised far more troubling issues and questions than we answered. That’s the first scandal.
And, of course, that the vice president has been caught in a lie repeatedly now, and I think as every day goes by, we’ll probably see that his assertion that he never spoke to Hunter Biden about his overseas businesses will be further proven that it’s a complete falsehood.
The other scandal, the second scandal, is literally the suppression of information on the part of the mainstream media, as well as the social media companies. I’m a strong believer in the free press, but primarily in terms of its investigative abilities, and its ability to provide the American people the truth and true information and hopefully unbiased.
But it’s been years since we’ve actually had an unbiased press that doesn’t tilt in terms of investigatory powers: You investigate the you-know-what out of any Republican or conservative, and just look the other way when it’s a Democrat or a liberal progressive. So that is the second scandal.
The third scandal is really what we have faced in terms of the deep state. Our inability with our legitimate oversight to extract the information and documents out of the agencies, is a scandal in and of itself as well. For that fact, we haven’t got any information out of Gina Haspel, the CIA, and the intelligence community. The information we’ve requested from the FBI under subpoena has not been provided, not even close to compliance with that.
These are documents that should be readily available. We are requesting what the FBI, with the Intelligence Committee, provided to the Inspector General. It’s not like we’re asking them for a whole new data dump, and they got to go search. This is the same information that they provided [to] the Inspector General for his investigation years ago. We should have had this information years ago, and the American people should have been fully aware of exactly what happened. That’s the third scandal, so three scandals all in one.
Mr. Jekielek: Now that you mentioned it, what do you make of the fact that the FBI has held on to this hard drive or laptop that came from the Delaware shop for so long without acting on it?
Sen. Johnson: I’m highly concerned about it. And so that’s why I wrote a letter especially to [Inspector] General [Michael] Horowitz to open up an investigation in terms of: what did the FBI do? I am highly suspicious, and I think there’s plenty of evidence for it that we have two systems of justice, at least two.
There’s one system of justice when it comes to political wrongdoing that is applied to Democrats. Again, a “look the other way” approach; you’ll bury evidence, never reveal what you’re sitting on. Then, of course, there’s the other system of justice on potential political wrongdoing to supply to conservatives and Republicans like President Trump. You’ll take any unbelievable claim and follow it down whatever rabbit hole as far as you can possibly follow it, ignore all exculpatory information to keep the investigation going.
Do we have those two systems of justice on political wrongdoing? Democrat versus Republican? Conservative versus liberal? I’d say that’s obviously yes. But also, the two systems of justice from the well-connected versus ordinary Americans probably exists as well, and that is very corrosive to our society, to our democracy, and certainly to our system of justice. We need equal justice under the law, and right now, I don’t think we have it.
Mr. Jekielek: You’ve already spoken to this a bit but ultimately, there is this narrative that all of this is Russian disinformation. I’m wondering if you could just comment directly on what you think about that?
Sen. Johnson: Certainly the recent revelations on Joe and Hunter Biden, these computers, that type of thing, certainly appears that is not [Russian disinformation], that these are authentic. They’re genuine. I think it’s just really outrageous that the former members of the deep state, bipartisan basis, issue a letter without any evidence whatsoever, not claiming it’s Russian disinformation but alluding to the fact that it might be to, again, smear the story, to smear authentic and genuine information.
I don’t know what their motive is. I can only guess that they’re obviously not the supporters of President Trump. I think that is scandalous, quite honestly, but what I have been trying to point out, first of all, I do not condone any foreign interference on our election. I was well ahead of the curve, in terms of Russian disinformation, holding hearings in my Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Europe about Russian interference, the attempted coup in Montenegro.
I know what Russia is up to, I know their means. We certainly need to be on the lookout for it. But the point I’m trying to make and the one point I want to make is the effect of Russian disinformation, foreign interference, on our elections, the absolute effect of that pales in comparison to what the Democrats have done using this canard like this is the biggest threat to our democracy. It is not. The effect on our elections in terms of Democrat disinformation, Democrat lies, and then the mainstream media carrying Democrat’s water [is a greater threat].
The mainstream media was duped, but I think much more likely complicit in the whole false narrative of Trump campaign collusion with Russia. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, they ought to come clean, and at a minimum, [what] they ought to do is they are to out their sources that leaked them false information.
Mr. Jekielek: What about the actual Russian disinformation that DNI Ratcliffe has revealed recently that’s happening?
Sen. Johnson: Again, the Russians have always done this; they always will do it. Our greatest line of defense, our first line of defense is exposure, your awareness of it, being discerning consumers. We spend billions on campaigns. The damage being done to our democracy because of the—again, I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, I’m not saying I condone it, but I call it the “Russian disinformation canard”.
It really began with Hillary Clinton’s, with the DNC, server hacking. Rather than have the American population take a look at the anti-Catholic emails flying back and forth between high level Democrats, the DNS—by the way, that server was never, was never in possession of any U.S. law enforcement. It was analyzed, the forensic analysis was done by CrowdStrike. I believe an employee of CrowdStrike testified that they never saw evidence of exfiltration of data.
So as much as everybody says that we know Russia hacked in, I personally, and I’m not saying that they didn’t do it, but I personally have never seen evidence that Russia actually hacked into it. But that has always been the narrative and so that narrative overwhelmed the information.
It’s the Wizard of Oz approach. It’s like, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, look at all the smoke coming out of the wizard up here, and they have used the Russian disinformation narrative time and time and time again successfully. So people don’t pay attention to what was actually in those emails, or they were hacked and made public by the DNC servers. All the attention was on Russian interference.
Then of course, when President Trump won legitimately, they want to delegitimize the election. So once again: Russian interference in our election, Trump didn’t really win, Russia intervened, and he colluded with Russia, and that’s why he’s president. They wanted to delegitimize his election. What they did to Chuck Grassley and I—they lie. They created a lie. They created a false intelligence product saying that we were accepting Russian disinformation.
Just today, our ranking members criticized our report, [alleging] it’s Russian disinformation. There’s no Russian disinformation in our report. It’s all based on U.S. sources, and they’re still saying it’s Russian disinformation because they don’t like the truth, they’re afraid of the truth, the truth is ugly, the truth hurts them politically, so they throw up Russian disinformation and now they’re doing the exact same thing with the [Hunter Biden’s hard drive].
Again, all I can say is our due diligence is just doing nothing but confirming these emails are authentic. I can’t say that’s really Hunter Biden’s computer. It seems like an odd story, which was one of the reasons we’re doing due diligence, and we didn’t accept it because we’re not sure whether this is a product that this shop owner really had legal possession of, so we weren’t going to take, basically, stolen property. Did find out the FBI has that.
But again, once again, what is Joe Biden doing in the debate last night? He didn’t refute, he didn’t deny that the emails were not genuine, and so he said that 50 people from the intelligence agencies say that this is Russian disinformation. First of all, they didn’t. That was a lie just in and off itself. They did say that this has all the earmarks of Russian disinformation, but they have no proof.
Every indication right now is that this is not Russian disinformation. Ratcliffe has no information that’s Russian disinformation, and yet they’re thrown up that Russian disinformation canard to be just like the wizard with all the smoke and fire coming out of his nostrils, when we ought to be looking at the man behind the curtain. The curtains are pulled back, we see the man.
We see the emails, we see the truth, but the mainstream media won’t reveal the truth. Instead, what they want to do is they want to talk about Russian disinformation. So I think this is a serious problem, and it just further shows the grotesque bias in the media, which is in and of itself a threat to our democracy.
Mr. Jekielek: Senator Johnson, one more quick question before we finish up. This was a story that we’ve covered quite a bit. Ivan Pentchoukov, our reporter, talking about these wiped Mueller probe phones, and I understand that you reached out to the Inspector General to basically look into this question. I’m wondering if there are any updates on that?
Sen. Johnson: From staff, I was supposed to get an update on that yesterday, and I don’t believe we’ve got anything. We’ve been busy with Tony Bobulinski. Maybe something came in, but no, I have not heard anything. That also, I think is pretty troubling. Again, it just shows you the arrogance of the special counsel.
I’ve got to point this out because it’s not being covered either. Devon Archer is now a reconvicted criminal. He was convicted by a jury of his peers, but then a judge either overturned or vacated—whatever the legal term is, I’m not a lawyer. The judge said, “Now we’re gonna let you go scot free.” The Second Circuit Court of Appeals obviously found that pretty outrageous and reinstated the conviction.
So it’s interesting to note: that judge happens to be married to a member of Robert Mueller’s special counsel team, who also happened to be the lead prosecutor against Paul Manafort. Pretty interesting relationship. First of all, pretty odd thing that she would have vacated or overturned a jury conviction of somebody. But this is the question that I asked the press to ask the vice president with all this in mind now.
I’m putting together a timeline right now. It’s just amazing how much was happening in 2014. There’s a series of emails from Devon Archer. This is actually part of the Devon-Cooney emails back in October 13, where they’re talking about, “Let’s run this transaction through Rosemont Seneca rather than Rosemont Capital because Chris Heinz is not as flexible as Hunter,” and, “It would probably pretty good to put a little honey in Hunter’s pocket.”
That’s why they use Rosemont Seneca for this fraud on the Sioux tribe, Oglala tribe, in South Dakota. So they use that, but this was all being set up in 2013 and perpetrated in 2014, which is the same year as the [Ukranian] Revolution of Dignity, 60 days later, within the span of about 28 days, they set up this glaring conflict of interest.
But here’s the question for Vice President Biden now that we know Devon Archer is a criminal: Why were you meeting with Devon Archer? On April 16, five days before he traveled to Ukraine, gave a speech before the Rada [Supreme Council of Ukraine], and was named the face of the Obama administration’s policy toward Ukraine. Why were you meeting with Devon Archer?
Again, you’re claiming that you know nothing about Hunter Biden’s overseas business connection, yet you’re meeting with Devon Archer in the White House? What was that meeting about? What did you talk about? Who else was in that meeting? Is it anywhere close to plausible that Vice President Biden didn’t know anything about Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings when he’s talking to Devon Archer, by the way, six days before Devon Archer joined the board? And a couple of weeks before, Hunter Biden joined the board.
Again, this is so obvious, and yet the mainstream media is just looking the other way. It’s kind of like you got a kid who says, “I didn’t steal that cookie.” What’s that in your hand? This is just so obvious and yet the mainstream media is complicit, once again, in covering it up. It’s really outrageous.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s such a pleasure to have you on.
Sen. Johnson: OK, take care.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.