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'I can't sit by and listen to this'
A shouting match erupted at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on election security Wednesday when Republican Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Democratic ranking member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) accused each other of lying about the other.
Johnson said that Peters and other Democratic senators falsely accused him of spreading misinformation about Russian interference in the 2016 election and of spreading Russian disinformation about Hunter Biden.
"I just have to talk about Russian disinformation because the people peddling it are not on my side of the aisle. Senior Democrat leaders including ranking member Peters were involved in the process of creating a false intelligence product," Johnson said, referring to the Steele Dossier, which FBI officials believed was compromised by Russian Intelligence Service disinformation.
Johnson accused Democrats of leaking that false information from the dossier to the press and then hypocritically accusing Republicans of spreading Russian disinformation.
After reports confirmed there is an ongoing Department of Justice investigation into Hunter Biden's business dealings, Johnson blasted Democrats and members of the intelligence community for asserting that his committee's investigation into Hunter Biden played into Russian hands.
"It's just galling and I just have to point out that the purveyors of Russian disinformation — Hillary Clinton's campaign, the DNC, the Steele Dossier, the ranking member Peters accusing Sen. Grassley and I of disseminating Russian disinformation — that's where the disinformation is coming from," Johnson said.
"I can't sit by and listen to this and say that this is not disinformation, this hearing today. This is getting information. We have to take a look at to restore confidence in our election integrity," he continued.
Peters denied that he'd put out any disinformation.
"You say I'm putting out information. I had nothing to do with this report," he said.
"You lied repeatedly! You lied repeatedly in the press that I was spreading Russian disinformation, and that was an outright lie and I told you to stop lying and you continued to do it!" Johnson shouted back at Peters.
"Mr. Chairman, this is not about airing your grievances. I don't know what rabbit hole you're running down right now," Peters responded.
"You can't make these false allegations," he continued as Johnson banged his gavel and indicated it was Sen. Rand Paul's time to speak.
"This is terrible what you're doing to this committee," Peters accused.
"It is what you have done to this committee, falsely accusing the chairman of spreading disinformation," Johnson retorted. "Nothing could have been further from the truth, and you're spouting it again."
"This is outrageous," Peters mumbled into his mask.
According to the New York Post, the argument was about a July letter Democrats sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray claiming that members of Congress were being targeted by a foreign influence campaign to affect the outcome of the 2020 election.
Democrats have repeatedly accused Johnson's Hunter Biden investigation of spreading Russian disinformation. Johnson's comments today show he's fed up with the accusations.
Also discussed during Wednesday's hearing were claims of election irregularities made by witnesses associated with the Trump campaign. Attorneys James Troupis and Jesse Binnall and Pennsylvania state legislator Francis Ryan claimed to have hundreds of thousands of examples of dead people and non-citizens voting as well as people casting multiple ballots, tainting the election results. These allegations of voter fraud were also made in court challenges dismissed in Wisconsin, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency who was fired last month after contradicting President Donald Trump's claims of election fraud testified that there is no evidence suggesting the election was not secure.
"I think we're past the point where we need to be having conversations about the outcome of this election," Krebs said, noting that Attorney General William Barr has also said the DOJ has not yet uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud.
"Continued assaults on democracy and the outcome of this election only serve to undermine confidence in the process and is ultimately corrosive to the institutions that support elections," he added.
Democrats have denounced claims of voter fraud or other election irregularities as false and accused those making such claims of spreading disinformation.
"Whether intended or not, this hearing gives a platform to conspiracy theories and lies and is a destructive exercise that has no place in the U.S. Senate," Sen. Peters said during his remarks. "Joe Biden won the election."
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