This week, the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riots revealed that Johnson’s chief of staff attempted to hand Vice President Mike Pence a list of fake voters who support Trump, raising questions about the Wisconsin Republican’s role in a measured and coordinated plan to prevent a Trump victory. Biden and Trump’s presidency.
The revelations also highlight the extent of Johnson’s role as one of Congress’s most prominent election deniers and January 6 apologetics—spreading conspiracy theories about fraudulent votes and downplaying the violent assault on the Capitol as “peaceful,” often with the idea that it may have been an inside job by the FBI.
Johnson, who is running for re-election this year, has faced scandals and controversial statements since his alliance with Trump. He has spread false information about the coronavirus, been accused of racism for saying he would have worried if black protesters had flooded the Capitol on January 6 instead of white Trump supporters, and he has come under fire for using taxpayer money to fly between Washington and his home in Florida. Some Democrats and political experts say the latest revelations of direct contact in the form of text messages between Johnson and Pence’s staff on Jan. 6 could sway voters in a glamorous state where he wins the election by a slim margin.
“What happened in the last 24 hours is different. Expressing unclear political positions is one thing, and potentially helping to attempt a coup,” said Kenneth R. Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Johnson’s potential Democratic opponents – the August Wisconsin primaries – attacked him immediately, arguing that the texts provide concrete evidence to voters that Johnson was part of an attempt to nullify the votes of thousands of Wisconsinans. Wednesday’s poll by Marquette Law School but made before the recent revelations that Johnson is trailing three of his four potential opponents in odd numbers.
Senate Democratic candidate Tom Nelson, who previously pushed for Johnson to be recalled to the committee on Jan. 6, on Wednesday called for the senator to resign. “What he revealed today is beyond anything I could have imagined how far Ron Johnson would go to overturn the outcome of the Wisconsin election. Not only should Johnson resign and be sworn in, but all indications point to evidence of a crime that the US Department of Justice is committed to investigating.”
Wisconsin Governor Mandela Barnes, who is also running in the Democratic Senate primary, called on Johnson to “resign immediately.”
Ron Johnson actively tried to undermine this democracy. He literally tried to turn over to Mike Pence fake ballot papers. “Once again, Ron Johnson has proven to be a danger to our country and our fundamental rights,” Barnes said in a statement.
“Ron Johnson is a seditious traitor and a danger to democracy” chirp Alex Lasry, another candidate for the Senate.
Sarah Godlowsky, a Wisconsin state treasurer and another Democrat vying to challenge Johnson, called it “a threat to our democracy and a disgrace to our state.”
Johnson’s spokeswoman Alexa Henning dismissed the criticism. “Senator’s Democratic opponents are always trying new ways to avoid talking about their disastrous Democratic policies,” she said. “The Senator had never considered resigning as a result of the dozens of false attacks against him already. Why would this ridiculous attack be any different?”
Henning did not respond to specific questions about the text messages or Johnson’s knowledge of the fake election documents.
Johnson has denied involvement in the plan to extradite Trump’s fake voters to Pence. A text message that appeared at the hearing, from Johnson’s chief of staff Sean Riley to Pence aide Chris Hodgson and sent minutes before the joint session of Congress to certify Biden’s victory, said “Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS, please advise.”
“What is this?” Hodgson responds. “Alternate slate of voters in MI and WI because the archivist did not receive them,” Riley wrote. “Don’t give him that,” Hodgson replies.
Johnson told reporters on Tuesday that someone from the House, “some trained staff,” brought the envelope into his office and said he needed to turn it over to the vice president. Johnson claims that his office attempted to make the extradition, but the vice president’s staff refused and this was the complete interference of his staff. “I had no hand in that,” Johnson said. “This is not a complete story.”
Johnson acknowledged that he “was aware we got something he wanted to hand over to the vice president,” but said he didn’t know who handed it over or what it was. He said the chief of staff had “do the right thing” in presenting the documents to the vice president.
Later, Johnson left the Capitol followed by reporters asking him about text messages. Johnson put his phone to his ear and said he had been in touch, but a reporter challenged the senator, saying he could see the screen and knew Johnson wasn’t talking to anyone.
“The bottom line is Johnson isn’t stupid — he had to know what the context of the moment was, what was happening on January 6, what was going on back home; he was far away,” said Charlie Sykes, a prominent former Republican who has opposed Trump for a long time. of the rabbit hole in the “Stop Theft” effort. Sykes, who lives in Wisconsin, said the highly specific, easily understandable image of text messages from Johnson staff to the vice president’s office suggesting alternative voters takes the effort to flip the election from an abstraction to intangible.
The January 6 commission broke down some other details of how the Wisconsin plan would standardize. Andrew Heat, the former GOP leader from Wisconsin, has signed on to be a fake Trump voter. Testifying before the committee, Heat said he believed Trump’s list of alternate voters would only be used if the Trump campaign won the legal challenges.
“I was told these would only matter if the court ruled in our favour,” he said. Other than that, Heat said in a clip played during the hearing, “he could have used our voters in ways we were not told and we wouldn’t support.”
The package tracker shows that the package of certificates was mailed in Wisconsin on December 16 but was not accepted by an employee of the National Archives in Washington until the morning of January 4. Later that day, Mark Jefferson, executive director of Republicans from Wisconsin, texted someone: “Idiots who are upset about stupidity want someone to send the original voter papers to the president of the Senate. They’re going to call one of us to tell us.” What the hell is going on.”
Heat and Jefferson did not respond to requests for comment.
Jeffrey Mandel, a Wisconsin attorney, said in a lawsuit filed in May against fake Trump voters in the state, that there were still many gaps in the timeline, including who was in contact with Heat and Jefferson from the Trump campaign and who gave the fraudulent documents to the office of Johnson. Mandel noted that the cover page included with the alternative voter list sent to Washington was on official Wisconsin Republican Party paper.
Mandel said that while there were many questions, the committee’s fallout for Johnson is an affirmation of the senator’s role in trying to overturn the 2020 election.
“We have known for a long time that he was a supporter of the ‘Big Lie’ and was willing to say and do anything to push that ‘big lie,'” Mandel said. . It wasn’t a terrible surprise, but there is something profound in the image of Senator Johnson physically trying to convey these papers to a penny in the light of day, on the Senate floor, at the crucial moment before Congress begins to count the votes. “
Rosalind S. contributed to this report. Heldermann.