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Peters, Johnson trade sharp remarks at election hearing in Washington

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 12/16/2020 Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press
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U.S. Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., traded verbal blows Wednesday at a hearing on election irregularities with Johnson shouting at Peters and calling him a liar over an issue involving President-elect Joe Biden's son Hunter.

Johnson is the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Peters is the committee's top ranking Democrat.

As the hearing got underway, Johnson said it was important for the Senate to consider evidence of irregularities in the 2020 election, despite the fact that there has not been any evidence of widespread problems. Peters made clear that courts and other officials have rejected claims that irregularities could or should lead to decertifying results.

Gary Peters wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., addresses the media, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020 in Rochester, Mich. Peters won reelection Wednesday, defeating Republican challenger John James in a tight, expensive race that was the state's most competitive in two decades. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) © Carlos Osorio, AP Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., addresses the media, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020 in Rochester, Mich. Peters won reelection Wednesday, defeating Republican challenger John James in a tight, expensive race that was the state's most competitive in two decades. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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President Donald Trump and his allies have tried to attack the results showing he lost to Biden in Michigan and a handful of other states, but legal efforts to overturn the results — including an unprecedented request from Texas' attorney general to throw out results from Michigan and some other states — have been rebuffed.

More: Fact check: Yes, Hunter Biden is under federal investigation over taxes

More: Trump tweet wrongly suggests there were defects with Michigan voting machines

At one point in the hearing, Peters questioned Chris Krebs, the former head of election security for the Trump administration, about Russian disinformation attempts in the 2016 election and whether Russia and other foreign adversaries were able now to take "advantage of false claims of broad election fraud … where none exist."

Johnson, when Peters' comment ended, said it was "galling" to hear Peters talk about Russian disinformation when Peters and others had falsely accused him and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, of "accepting and disseminating Russian disinformation" in an investigation into Biden's son Hunter  that  concluded "millions of dollars in questionable financial transactions."

His voice rising, Johnson said recent reports that Hunter Biden is under federal investigation over his taxes — though little more than that fact has been made public — proves they were right about Hunter Biden and he couldn't sit by and listen to "the lies, the false allegations" put out by Democrats.

Peters responded by saying he had "nothing to do" with any report leaked to the press as claimed by Johnson, though he   and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., released a report in September that called Johnson and Grassley's Hunter Biden investigation "faulty" and "rooted in a known Russian disinformation effort."

Interrupting him and jabbing his finger in the air, Johnson shouted at Peters, "You lied repeatedly in the press that I was spreading Russian disinformation and that was an outright lie and I told you to stop lying and you continued to do it."

Peters responded by saying: "Mr. Chairman, this is not about airing your grievances. I don't know what rabbit hole you're running down."

Peters also charged that Johnson has injected partisanship into committee matters where it doesn't belong. "This is terrible what you're doing to this committee," he said. 

Johnson, ignoring him, called on another member to ask a question as Peters threw his hands up in frustration.

Contact Todd Spangler at tspangler@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Peters, Johnson trade sharp remarks at election hearing in Washington

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