Johnson Says ‘No Evidence of Collusion’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson said his biggest takeaway from separate courtroom actions involving two former associates of President Donald Trump is that there’s no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The congressman also said Congress should continue looking into corruption at the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Johnson, R-6 Ohio, was among the area officials taking part Wednesday afternoon in the unveiling of a painting of George Washington by local artist Ray Simon at the Mahoning County Courthouse.

The event took place the day after Paul Manafort, former chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign, was found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes, including five charges of tax fraud and two counts of bank fraud.

Around the same time Trump’s former longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts that included tax fraud and violating campaign finance laws.

According to multiple reports, Cohen made payments to women “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” believed to be Trump, to keep them from disclosing extramarital affairs they had had with the individual.

The two cases spun out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election, including potential connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

“The biggest takeaway is that there’s no collusion. There’s still no evidence of collusion, and none of this reflects on the president,” Johnson said. Neither Manafort nor Cohen would be under investigation if not for the “phony collusion story” for which no evidence has been produced.

The investigation, which is ongoing, has produced multiple indictments and several guilty pleas and convictions.

“I certainly think everybody should be held accountable if the law has been broken, but either show the collusion or let’s get on with life,” Johnson said.

The congressman also dismissed Cohen’s claim that then-candidate Trump directed the payoffs to the two women – an adult-film actress and a model – as “a big assumption” that that was what happened.

“We don’t know that,” he said. “That’ll play out in due time.”

In contrast to the position of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, who said Tuesday night that Congress should investigate the day’s revelations, including the allegations surrounding Trump, Johnson said he sees no reason for further action.

“I’m not sure there’s any further action that Congress can take, other than to continue the oversight and find out how deep the corruption goes into the Department of Justice and the FBI that fabricated this collusion story in the first place,” he said.

Trump’s allies in and out of Congress – and the president himself ­–­ have asserted anti-Trump bias among the investigators. As evidence, critics of the investigation cite the use of a dossier produced by Fusion GPS that claims links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and anti-Trump texts exchanged between an FBI agent and lawyer prior to the 2016 election.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.