Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., backed off claims an anti-Trump “secret society” existed within the FBI and admitted Thursday a reference made by two FBI employees to such a group might have been a joke.
“It’s a real possibility,” Johnson told CNN when asked whether the mention of a “secret society” could have been an exaggeration.
The “secret society” claim appears to have originated with a text message exchanged between FBI investigator Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who were engaged in an extramarital affair and spoke negatively about Trump in their messages.
Strzok was on the FBI team that investigated Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and later served on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. When Mueller learned of the messages, he removed Strzok from the probe.
“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,” Page wrote in a text to Strzok, according to ABC News.
Johnson, who leads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Tuesday he had an “informant” confirm reports that FBI anti-Trump “secret society” meetings occurred after Trump was elected. Also this week, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., indicated that the phrase "secret society" came from one of the texts, which could be a reference to the text revealed by ABC.
The Wisconsin Republican said the details given to him by this informant were evidence of “more than bias, but corruption at the highest levels of the FBI.”
But Johnson seemed to edge away from his original claims Wednesday when he told CNN he didn’t know what the informant meant about the alleged “secret society” meetings.