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STORY BY MANU RAJU AND ALEX ROGERS, CNN

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Published on March 5, 2021 1:24 AM

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Ron Johnson at the center of the storm: 'People are out to destroy me'
(CNN)Sen. Ron Johnson seems to be relishing his place at the center of the controversies dominating Washington.

For two months, the Wisconsin Republican has taken on everyone who blamed former President Donald Trump for inciting the deadly riot at the Capitol: Democrats, the mainstream media, even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He's raised questions about whether Trump supporters were in fact culpable for the violence, earning him the scorn of his colleagues for advancing dangerous conspiracies even as he says he's just seeking the truth. Now, he is leading the Republican effort against President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, employing extreme tactics by forcing Senate clerks to read its every word and offering a flood of amendments to highlight its astronomical cost. Johnson's wars to reshape history and policy come at a crucial personal moment, as he chooses whether to run again in 2022, a decision that will alter the fight for the future control of the Senate. Johnson knows he's in the crosshairs. "I think it's obvious that I'm target number one here," Johnson told CNN. "People are out to destroy me." Johnson is the only Republican to hold statewide office in Wisconsin, a state that chose Biden over Trump by less than one point, and could be the only senator to campaign in a state carried by the opposite party's 2020 presidential candidate.

But Johnson is proudly pro-Trump, pushing further than many of his Republican colleagues to rewrite the narrative of January 6. Last month, Johnson said that McConnell needed "to be a little careful" after he blamed the former President for the Capitol riot, and claimed the Senate Republican leader did not speak for the Senate GOP conference. Johnson revealed to CNN that he couldn't support McConnell for leader again. "That's not on the table, no," Johnson said of backing the GOP leader, the first Republican senator to publicly take that stance. As Republicans debate the former President's role in the future of the Republican party, Johnson has firmly placed himself in Trump's camp, speaking with him by phone just days ago. He said he expects the former President to support and campaign for him if he runs again. "I've always aligned myself with the people who supported Trump," Johnson said. "That's how I view it."