Johnson criticizes Russ Feingold on national security at RNC (copy)

Sen. Ron Johnson of Oshkosh criticized opponent Russ Feingold during a speech at the Republican National Convention July 19.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Friday he believes the federal government may be rushing to grant citizenship to immigrants before the November election.

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee also said he is "highly concerned" Russia is "probably meddling" in the U.S. electoral process, although he said he doesn't think the country could influence the outcome. 

Johnson briefly took questions from reporters at the state Capitol after speaking to a group of military veteran entrepreneurs. 

Johnson and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter last week to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson expressing concerns with an internal memo from US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"The Field Office due to the election year needs to process as many of their N-400 (citizenship) cases as possible between now and FY 2016," the memo reads.

Homeland Security has said it usually sees more applications in election years, and the spike has been larger than anticipated this year.

But Johnson said Friday he is "highly concerned the Department of Homeland Security may be politicizing the granting citizenship process."

The Republican senator referenced an apparently similar effort in 1996 to approve more citizenship applications, which he said resulted in corners being cut by processing applications without the appropriate safety measures, including fingerprint checks.

Johnson was asked on a recent radio appearance on Chicago's AM 560 whether he's concerned non-citizens may be voting and canceling out the votes of U.S. citizens.

"It’s one of the reasons I think voter ID is just a really reasonable response, to make sure a legal vote is not canceled out by an illegal vote," Johnson said.

Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, said Johnson was "channeling his inner Donald Trump" with those comments.

"We know Ron Johnson's been gone scouring the country for campaign money, but here in Wisconsin court cases have shown the only fraud which exists in our elections are when partisan politicians like Ron Johnson try to manipulate the laws for partisan gain," Ross said.

Asked on Friday whether he shares Trump's concerns that the November presidential election may be "rigged," Johnson said he is concerned Russia is "meddling" in the process.

Johnson said he thinks Russia's goal is to "delegitimize" the election by raising doubts.

"But that being said, I don’t think Russia has the capability of changing the outcome of the election. I think all they can do is meddle and just make people unsure about the outcome, which is not a good thing," Johnson said.

The senator declined to say whether he has issues with Trump's previous praise for Vladimir Putin, who he has said is a stronger leader than President Barack Obama. 

Instead, Johnson argued the reason Russia may be trying to insert itself into the U.S. election is because Obama has offered "feckless" and "weak" leadership.

"Our nominee’s talking about strengthening the economy, strengthening the military, defeating ISIS, securing our borders. I agree on those macro issues," Johnson said.

Asked whether Trump's recent comments about 1996 Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado, including a set of recent tweets encouraging voters to "check out (her) sex tape," give him pause, Johnson said the election is still a "binary choice" between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

"Come on. We have enormous challenges facing this nation. We’ve got to be talking about how to realize the full potential of our economy here," Johnson said. "It’s just disappointing that, even on a presidential, these campaigns just devolve into so many nonsense issues when we have so many enormous challenges, economically and internationally. So that’s my response to that."

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