Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) came to former President Donald Trump’s defense over the weekend, claiming that concerns over classified documents that Trump removed from the White House and improperly kept at his Mar-a-Lago residence were overblown.
In an interview with reporters from Milwaukee-based ABC News affiliate WISN, Johnson appeared to show no concern over the fact that documents bearing the highest levels of national security clearance were being kept in a storage locker at the property in Palm Beach, Florida.
“I think Mar-a-Lago is a pretty safe place,” Johnson said, adding that the former president and his family had Secret Service protection.
“I’m not overly concerned about some top secret information being leaked out,” he went on.
Johnson, a Trump loyalist who once served as chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is among a number of Republican lawmakers who have come to Trump’s defense since the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago on August 8. In an interview last week, Johnson decried the search warrant that was executed on the estate as a “weaponization of our law enforcement agencies against Democrats’ and the left’s political opponents.”
“This is scandalous, it’s corruption,” he said.
Security issues have long been detailed at Mar-a-Lago, however. While the Secret Service does provide physical security to Trump and his family members, the agency is not responsible for checking whether guests or members of the club pose a security problem. The agency has also noted that the setup of Mar-a-Lago makes it challenging for agents to carry out their duties.
“The foreign visitors there and others who might have connections with foreign governments and foreign agents — creates a significant national security threat,” said Mary McCord, former Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice, in an interview with Al Jazeera.
Johnson’s claims that the Mar-a-Lago raid was politically motivated have also been dismissed by national security experts and historians, who have said that officials followed protocols and handled the matter “by the book.”
Most Americans appear to agree with that assessment; in a Politico/Morning Consult poll that was published last week, 49 percent of registered voters said that they approve of the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, while only 37 percent said that they disapprove. That poll, which was conducted on August 10, came before an inventory list of the materials that were seized was made public, revealing that some of the documents contained information about nuclear weapons.
The warrant detailed that Trump may have been in violation of the Espionage Act for harboring documents at his estate. Some of the material retrieved by the FBI included Sensitive Compartmented Information, which is never meant to be removed from a specialized facility.
The polling data suggests that Americans are mostly satisfied with the search on Trump’s property. But because a number of Republicans have come to the former president’s defense — including Johnson, who is up for reelection this fall — the issue could play a role in the outcome of the midterm elections.
Johnson is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent senators up for reelection. In his race against Democratic nominee Mandela Barnes, the two candidates are in a statistical tie, according to a Marquette Law School poll conducted in June. Barnes has the support of 46 percent of voters in Wisconsin, while Johnson has the support of 44 percent, according to the poll.