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NBC's Chuck Todd to GOP senator on Electoral College challenge: 'You're the arsonist here'

Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddGOP divided over expected Cheney ouster Sunday shows - White House COVID-19 response coordinator says US is 'turning the corner' Hogan: GOP devolving into 'circular firing squad' with Cheney ouster MORE of NBC's "Meet the Press" sharply criticized Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna MORE during a Sunday interview over the Wisconsin Republican's decision to join other GOP senators in challenging the presidential election in several states, saying, "You're the arsonist here."

"You and your colleagues have created this controversy," Todd said to Johnson one day after 11 Republican senators in a letter announced they would challenge the results, which will lead to a debate and vote in the House and Senate on Wednesday. 

The senators acted after a series of courts rejected the Trump campaign's challenges to the results. The campaign has argued that massive voter fraud accounted for President TrumpDonald TrumpWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' More than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill McConnell says he's 'great admirer' of Liz Cheney but mum on her removal MORE's defeat to President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' Conservative group sues over prioritization of women, minorities for restaurant aid MORE, but it has failed to provide evidence to back those claims up, court after court has found.

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"We are now locked into a destructive vicious circle. ... You made an allegation that there was widespread fraud. You have failed to offer specific evidence of that widespread fraud. But you're demanding an investigation on the grounds that there are allegations of widespread fraud," Todd said to Johnson, who is up for reelection in 2022 in a state where Biden narrowly defeated Trump. 

Johnson is the only GOP senator to announce a challenge of the election results who represents a state Biden won.

"So, essentially, you're the arsonist here," Todd said, adding that Johnson did not "have the guts to tell the truth admit that this election was fair." 

Johnson took exception to Todd's assertion, saying that "the fire" started when "the mainstream media dropped any pretense of being unbiased and actually chose sides during this election." 

"I didn't start this," Johnson added and accused the media of ignoring "our investigation of Hunter Biden." 

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In the statement issued on Saturday, the 11 GOP senators said Congress "should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states." 

"Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed," the senators said

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Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee who is up for reeleciton in 2022, has held several hearings related to voter fraud and other alleged irregularities in the election. Because of term limits, he will not be chairman of the panel in the new Congress.  

"You have spent ... much of your time carrying a lot of this crazy conspiratorial water for President Trump," Todd said. "I'm just trying to understand here. What are you doing it for? ... Are you simply trying to curry favor with constituents of the president? ... Is this just a cynical political ploy?" 

Johnson responded that he is "trying to be transparent" and listed instances of "people voting twice" in Nevada as proof of fraud. 

"Just because you have somebody say it doesn't make it true," Todd interjected again. "Stop. ... You don't get to make these allegations that none of them have been proven true."