Chris Cuomo grills GOP senator for pushing ‘false notion of secret societies’

CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday confronted Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump spars with GOP lawmakers on steel tariffs Overnight Regulation: Trump unveils budget | Sharp cuts proposed for EPA, HHS | Trump aims to speed environmental reviews | Officials propose repealing most of methane leak rule Trump budget seeks savings through ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Wis.) for pushing a conspiracy theory that an FBI agent and a bureau lawyer with whom he shared texts about President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE were part of a “secret society.”

“Do you have any regrets about getting caught up in all those false notions about secret societies and the like?” Cuomo asked Johnson on "New Day."

“No,” Johnson replied. “What I asked everybody to do is read our very detailed report on our investigation in the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE email scandal and the FBI’s investigation of that. Very detailed. An awful lot of questions that have been raised as a result.”

“I hear you on that and I read it, but there’s no secret society,” Cuomo shot back. “You know that.”

“Not my phrase,” Johnson said, saying that he only commented on the issue “one time” and that “others blew it out of proportion.”

GOP lawmakers earlier this year pointed to a series of text messages between the two officials, including one that referenced a “secret society,” as evidence of anti-Trump bias in the FBI.

Amid the uproar, Johnson said in January that he had an informant who had told Congress about secret “off-site” meetings of the supposed “secret society.” He later acknowledged that it was a “real possibility” that the reference in the text messages had been a joke.

Cuomo again pressed Johnson on Thursday, who stopped short of saying that he did not believe in the secret society theory.

“There may have been off-site meetings, I have information that there were. That’s almost beside the point,” he said, adding that his “main concern” is whether the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server was meant to “cover up and exonerate.”

“The truth has to be the side that we all decide to join,” Cuomo responded. “But you don’t want to smear the intelligence community without cause. We know it seems to work for the president, but we hope that people will be better than that.”

“I’m just trying to get to the facts,” Johnson said. “The American people deserve the truth.”