GOP senator 'concerned' about Russian interference

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Barr throws curveball into Senate GOP 'spying' probe Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems MORE (R-Wis.) said Sunday that while he does not believe President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE’s campaign accepted help from Russia, he remains "concerned" about Russian election interference.

"I am every bit as concerned about Russian interference as any Democratic senator," Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”


Johnson was also asked about a New York Times report that acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit On The Money: Judge rules banks can give Trump records to House | Mnuchin pegs debt ceiling deadline as 'late summer' | Democrats see momentum in Trump tax return fight | House rebukes Trump changes to consumer agency House rebukes Mulvaney's efforts to rein in consumer bureau MORE had told then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenCongressional Hispanic Caucus demands answers on death of migrant children Trump expected to tap Cuccinelli for new immigration post Kobach gave list of demands to White House for 'immigration czar' job: report MORE not to discuss Russian interference with Trump, reportedly telling Nielsen it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below [the president's] level."

Johnson dismissed the idea that the Trump administration did not take Russian election meddling seriously.

“DHS has been on the case. They've done a pretty successful job. We didn't see that kind of interference in 2018,” he said, referring to the Department of Homeland Security. “And I think we can rest pretty assured that the 2020 will be successful, as well.”

Asked if the responsibility for safeguarding against Russian interference goes beyond DHS, Johnson responded that “DHS has the primary responsibility, and they've done a pretty good job, under [Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director] Chris Krebs.”

Johnson also dismissed the idea that Russian agents could actively change vote totals, calling it “almost impossible” due to local control of elections. He noted that voter files could be more at risk, but said DHS has successfully consulted with state and local authorities to prevent such breaches.

“Let's be vigilant. Let's be concerned about it. But let's not blow it out of proportion, either,” Johnson said.