by Chuck Ross
“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd blew up on Sen. Ron Johnson Sunday after the Republican brought up possible CIA leaks during the Trump-Russia investigation.
“Senator Johnson, please,” Todd said at one point during the contentious interview. “Can we please answer the question that I asked you instead of trying to make [President] Donald Trump feel better here that you’re not criticizing him?”
Todd invited the Wisconsin Republican on to discuss his comments Friday regarding Trump’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine.
Johnson told reporters that a U.S. diplomat told him on Aug. 30 that the aid was contingent on Ukraine’s president opening investigations into whether Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. election.
Johnson told a Wall Street Journal reporter that he was concerned about those remarks and contacted Trump to discuss. He said Trump denied to him in August that he was withholding aid to Ukraine in exchange for political favors.
When Todd asked Johnson about that at the beginning of “Meet the Press” Sunday, he sought to shift gears by suggesting that the NBC host should ask former CIA Director John Brennan a question about CIA leaks when he appeared for an interview later in the show.
“You ought to ask Director Brennan: What did Peter Strzok mean when he texted Lisa Page on Dec. 15, 2016?” Johnson began, referring to two of the former FBI officials who worked on the Trump-Russia probe.
Todd said: “Senator, what does this have to do with Ukraine?”
Johnson read from a text message that Strzok sent Page in which he speculated that the CIA was behind leaks for political reasons.
“Think our sisters have begun leaking like mad. Scorned and worried and political, they’re kicking in to overdrive,” Strzok wrote Page on Dec. 15, 2016.
A day earlier, NBC News published a story revealing the highly classified detail that U.S. intelligence agencies had spies inside the Kremlin who reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the Russian hacking operation against Democrats during the 2016 election.
Johnson and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley have sent multiple letters to the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) asking whether that office has opened investigations into the possible CIA leaks. The two Republicans renewed that letter on Oct. 2, as the ICIG became involved in the whistleblower complaint against Trump.
Todd was clearly unhappy with the direction of the interview.
“I have no idea why … a Fox News conspiracy propaganda stuff is popping up on here,” the host said.
Todd lost it after Johnson criticized the media for ignoring the significant of Strzok’s text.
Todd has long downplayed allegations that U.S. government agencies like the CIA and FBI did anything wrong during investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, or of collusion involving the Trump campaign.
Todd dismissed questions about the infamous Steele dossier as irrelevant in an interview Thursday with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. He also criticized Attorney General William Barr’s investigation of FBI and CIA activities leading up to the Trump-Russia probe.
“I’m just going to be honest, any time anybody comes at me with an argument that relies on the Steele dossier, I just throw up my hands,” he said Thursday. “The amount of people in order to undermine the Russia investigation that try to use the Steele dossier to do it — way too much emphasis is given to the Steele dossier.”
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Chuck Ross is is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.