GOP Senator After Moscow Trip: Election Interference Not Greatest Threat To Our Democracy

Shortly after returning from his trip to Moscow, Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin thinks that Congress was too harsh on Russia after they meddled in the 2016 U.S. election:

"I’ve been pretty upfront that the election interference — as serious as that was, and unacceptable — is not the greatest threat to our democracy,” Sen. Ron Johnson said in an interview with the Washington Examiner. “We’ve blown it way out of proportion.”

“We need to really honestly assess what actually happened, what effect did it have, and what effect are our sanctions actually having, positively and negatively,” he said.

Previously: Johnson has alleged wrongdoing and an anti-Trump secret society at the FBI.

Senator Johnson says he is now open to revising Russia sanctions. He was one of several Republican Senators who traveled to the country as part of a congressional delegation.

Johnson's opinion is considered important due to the fact that he chairs the Foreign Relations subcommittee on Europe.

"I've always been concerned about the double-edged sword of economic sanctions can be used by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to blame America for any lack of economic progress — but again, on the ground, they don't seem to be having a real horrible economic effect, not in Moscow anyway,” said Johnson.

Senator Johnson later told WOSH-AM radio what he meant by the comments, saying that more serious threats deserved the attention of the United States.

"We’ve had briefings on this — it’s very difficult to really meddle in our elections. It just is. These are locally run, it’s almost impossible to change the vote tally. My concern would be violating the voter files, but we have those issues anyway and there are plenty of controls on that,” he said. “You know from a standpoint of using social media we spent a couple of billion dollars on the last election, they maybe spent a couple hundred thousand.”

While Putin didn't meet with them, Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke with Republican Senators on the possibility of establishing better relations with the United States.

Trump is scheduled to meet with President Putin next week in Helsinki, Finland.