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Sen. Ron Johnson says climate change is ‘scare mongering,’ minimized Russian disinformation

Sen. Ron Johnson says climate change is ‘scare mongering,’ minimized Russian disinformation

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Last Monday at a Milwaukee Press Club event, Sen. Ron Johnson attacked U.S. climate change policy, minimized Russian disinformation, says he will continue to support President Donald Trump if tapped as Republican nominee, and deflected questions about his ties to a GOP megadonor who collects Nazi memorabilia.

Calling climate change “fear mongering by the radical left,” Johnson said, “Let me just throw a couple of facts here cause these are important to understand the scare mongering … and what a fantasy all of this climate change is.”

“Why are we doing it?,” Johnson asked the audience regarding why the U.S. is investing tax dollars into the fight against climate change.

He criticized the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes clean energy tax credits for solar and wind technologies, solid waste and geothermal energy among other alternatives to fossil fuels. Early federal estimates projected around $300 billion for Energy Security and Climate Change programs within the IRA.

“It’s to create a state of fear so individuals can gain control and power over our lives. It’s a loss of freedom. That’s what this is all about,” Johnson said.

Globally, climate change is widely accepted science by politicians, however, in the United States it still remains a partisan political issue, despite numerous studies showing more than 90 percent of scientists who study Earth’s climate agree the planet is warming and humans are the primary cause.

Majorities in most surveyed countries believe global climate change is a major threat to their nation, a Pew Research study states.

The Department of Defense (DOD) has identified climate change as “a critical national security issue and threat multiplier, according to a DOD Climate Adaptation plan obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal.

“Climate change will continue to amplify operational demands on the force, degrade installations and infrastructure, increase health risks to our service members, and could require modifications to existing and planned equipment. Extreme weather events are already costing the Department billions of dollars and are degrading mission capabilities,” the report states.

When the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) launched a Center on Climate Change and National Security back in 2009, it drew opposition from Republicans who disputed the need for an intelligence initiative on this topic, according to The Federation of American Scientists.

The Washington Post reported in 2021, a Pentagon report indicates a shift in how the U.S. military is incorporating climate issues into its security strategy.

“Until now, when the Defense Department has considered climate change, it has tended to focus on how floods and extreme heat can affect military readiness rather than the broader geopolitical consequences of a warming world. Now it is worried that climate change could lead to state failure,” The Washington Post reported.

In March of 2022, Johnson joined other Republican lawmakers to relax environmental regulations. His efforts:

  • Authorized the construction and operation of the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Removed regulatory hurdles to increase liquefied natural gas exports.
  • Prohibited any presidential moratoria on new energy leases.
  • Required the U.S. Department of the Interior to hold on an annual basis a minimum of 4 oil and natural gas lease sales in each state with land available for leasing beginning in fiscal year 2022.
  • Prohibited the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy from drawdowns of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) until the Secretary of the Interior issues a plan to increase oil and gas production on federal lands and waters.

Last month during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on health care costs associated with the climate crisis, Johnson claimed that projected rising temperatures would benefit the United States and Wisconsin because fewer people would die from the cold.

California’s governor mocked Johnson in a tweet after the comments.

During Johnson’s Monday event in Milwaukee, he told a room full of journalists he would continue to support Trump if he is selected as the Republican Presidential nominee.

“I will support the nominee of the Republican party,” Johnson said.

On Friday, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos made it clear he would not support former President Trump during an interview with WISN-TV’s UPFRONT.

“I hope that Donald Trump is a bystander, not the person at the center of the stage, and I’m going to do whatever I can to make that happen,” Vos said.

The U.S. House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 asked Vos to testify about a telephone call then President Trump made asking Vos to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. 

Beyond Wisconsin, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden, who was a Bush administration appointee, spoke in a President Biden campaign commercial against former President Trump.

“If there is another term for President Trump, I don’t know what happens to America,” Hayden said.

Johnson also defended two of America’s greatest adversaries at last Monday’s event.

Johnson minimized Russian and Chinese actions related to election interference, believing them not to have been a threat to the U.S. elections especially when compared to alleged actions carried out by the Biden administration.

Johnson alleged Biden lied during a pre-2020 election campaign debate, which allegedly interfered with the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.

“(Biden’s alleged debate lie) interfered into our election to a far greater extent than anything Russia or China could ever hope to accomplish,” Johnson said.

Even in the event that the Biden campaign had not been truthful in that one instance, Russian interference in U.S. elections is nothing to minimize like Johnson did, officials said.

(Republicans) were disingenuous in downplaying Russia’s influence operations on behalf of the former president,” Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, who leads the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview with the New York Times.

“It was a disservice not to level with the public and to try to fudge the intelligence in the way they did,” Schiff added.

The Russian government directed extensive activity against U.S. election infrastructure, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said its 2019 election security findings contained in a bipartisan Russia Report.

The Committee found the activity directed at the state and local level began in at least 2014 and carried into at least 2017.

“In 2016, the U.S. was unprepared at all levels of government for a concerted attack from a determined foreign adversary on our election infrastructure. Since then, we have learned much more about the nature of Russia’s cyber activities and better understand the real and urgent threat they pose. The Department of Homeland Security and state and local elections officials have dramatically changed how they approach election security, working together to bridge gaps in information sharing and shore up vulnerabilities. The progress they’ve made over the last three years is a testament to what we can accomplish when we give people the opportunity to be part of a solution,” the committee said.

Federal law enforcement officials and the intelligence community remain committed to fighting Russian and other foreign disinformation campaigns and will hold those accountable foreign or domestic.

Johnson also deflected questions Monday at the Milwaukee Press Club event about his association with GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, who has ties to Clarence Thomas’s ethical questions and collects Nazi memorabilia.

When TM4’s Charles Benson asked Johnson about his association with Crow, who is now involved in the ethics questions surrounding Clarence Thomas, Johnson replied, “he may have contributed to my campaign. Thousands of people do. I don’t have a clue who they are.”

When asked if Johnson had concerns about the donations, he said he “didn’t know enough about it.”

“I don’t know the specifics,” Johnson said.

“I’m aware of it but it doesn’t hold my interest that much,” Johnson added.

The Washingtonian reported “when Republican megadonor Harlan Crow isn’t lavishing Justice Clarence Thomas with free trips on his private plane and yacht (in possible violation of Supreme Court ethics rules), he lives a quiet life in Dallas … (collecting) Nazi memorabilia.”

Crow has pictures of Adolf Hitler and a signed copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s book.

The Wisconsin Examiner reported that Crow has donated $53,000 to Wisconsin Republicans, including Johnson. According to the Examiner,  Johnson has received $11,200 in donations from Crow since 2015.

ProPublica reported last week that Crow had flown Thomas on his private jet to expensive vacations sailing on Crow’s super-yacht across Indonesia and allowed Thomas to stay at his secluded luxury resort in upstate New York. Thomas had not reported the gifts on ethics filings.

Thomas, who has served on the U.S. Supreme Court since 1991, has been no stranger to headlines. His confirmation hearings were heavily focused on his sexual harassment allegations by Anita Hill.

ProPublica also reported that Crow has statues depicting 20th century dictators, including Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin.

Chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Rep. Dick Durban said, “The ProPublica report is a call to action, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will act,” in a ProPublica article.


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