U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson addresses the 2018 GOP state convention. WisconsinEye screenshot

U.S. Sen Ron Johnson downplayed the impact of Russian interference on the 2016 election Tuesday and said the U.S. faces “much larger threats.”

Nonetheless, Johnson said during last week’s trip to Russia with a GOP congressional delegation that nearly half of a five-hour meeting with Russian officials was dedicated to the topic.

“Russian interference in unacceptable; it’s a serious matter. But when you take a look at threats to this nation, I worry about much larger threats,” he said on a conference call with reporters.

The Oshkosh Republican said while he’s concerned about attacks on voter files, they can be detected and addressed. He added voting machines are secure because they are not connected to the internet. He also argued the estimated $200,000 that Russia is accused of spending on social media to influence voters likely had little impact in the face of billions spent by U.S. sources.

He said Obama administration officials pushed the narrative that elections were secure before the 2016 presidential vote until “the wrong person got elected.”

“This is not the greatest threat to our democracy,” Johnson said. “But I understand how members on the other side of the aisle would like to blow it out of proportion for political purposes.”

Johnson said he’s not interested in politicizing the issue.

“I’m interested in actually solving the problem, and I’m interested in making sure we actually try and improve relationships with a country that has 7,000 nuclear weapons and is being aggressive around the world,” Johnson said.

Johnson on the call also praised President Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh as someone who would interpret and apply the law, rather than alter it.

But he said he is keeping an open mind during the confirmation process, and will examine Kavanaugh’s record and meet with him to discuss his approach to the law.

He said he has no litmus test regarding the Kavanaugh’s views on Roe v. Wade.

“My only litmus test is somebody conduct themselves as a judge, applying the law and not altering it,” Johnson said.

He praised Dem U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin for not joining many of her fellow Dems in immediately condemning Trump’s choice.

“I appreciate the fact that Sen. Baldwin hasn’t made a snap decision like so many of her colleagues have been and just totally opposed it,” Johnson said.

Baldwin after Monday’s announcement said the court needs an “independent justice” and said she looks forward to meeting with the nominee.

“People need an independent justice who will not overturn the law of the land on women’s health, health care for people with pre-existing conditions, and the constitutional rights and freedoms of all Americans,” Baldwin said.

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