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Sen. Johnson under fire for plan to deliver fake electors to Pence

Johnson's attempt to use false information to disrupt the 2020 presidential election is what is often called a "smoking gun"

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks during a hearing on Sept. 21, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Evidence revealed at the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection shows that an aide for Johnson told former Vice President Mike Pence’s staff that the Republican from Wisconsin wanted to hand-deliver fake elector votes from Wisconsin and Michigan. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP, File)

An aide for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson told former Vice President Mike Pence’s staff that the Republican from Wisconsin wanted to hand-deliver to Pence fake elector votes from his state and neighboring Michigan, text messages revealed at Tuesday’s meeting of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection showed.

Johnson spokeswoman Alexa Henning downplayed the texts after they were publicly revealed for the first time during the committee’s hearing in Washington, but did not deny that Johnson had wanted to hand-deliver the slate of fake electors to Pence.

“The senator had no involvement in the creation of an alternate slate of electors and had no foreknowledge that it was going to be delivered to our office,” Henning tweeted. “This was a staff to staff exchange. His new Chief of Staff contacted the Vice President’s office. The Vice President’s office said not to give it to him and we did not. There was no further action taken. End of story.”

Johnson had planned to object to accepting electors in states where he said the results were in dispute. He signed on to the objection of Arizona’s electors, which happened before the attack, but then voted to accept those electors later. He did not object to accepting Wisconsin’s votes, but two of the state’s Republican congressmen did.

The evidence presented showed a back and forth between Johnson aide Sean Riley and Pence staff member Chris Hodgson at 12:37 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise,” Riley texted Hodgson.

“What is it?” Hodgson replied.

“Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them,” Riley wrote back.

Hodgson responded: “Do not give that to him.”

Wisconsin Republicans met at the state Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020, the same day as 10 Democratic electors awarded their votes to Biden, who carried the battleground state by just under 21,000 votes. They forwarded their votes for Trump to the National Archives, arguing that they were trying to preserve Trump’s legal options in case a court overturned Biden’s win.

Wisconsin’s bipartisan elections commission declined to punish the fake electors, determining that no election laws had been violated. The fake electors are now being sued in Wisconsin by a liberal law firm that is seeking $2.4 million in damages.

Other evidence shown at Tuesday’s hearing indicated that Trump’s campaign team wanted the Wisconsin fake electors to fly the paperwork to Washington.

“Freaking Trump idiots want someone to fly original elector papers to the senate President,” Mark Jefferson, executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, texted on Jan. 4. “They’re going to call one of us to tell us just what the hell is going on.”

Johnson met with Wisconsin lawmakers later in 2021 and talked about dismantling the state’s bipartisan elections commission and having the GOP-controlled Legislature take over presidential and federal elections.

Johnson’s Democratic opponents jumped at the revelation at Tuesday’s hearing and called on him to resign.

“Ron Johnson actively tried to undermine this democracy,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said in a statement calling for Johnson’s resignation. “He literally tried to hand Mike Pence fake ballots. Once again, Ron Johnson has proven he’s a danger to our country and our fundamental rights.”

Other Democratic candidates including state Treasurer Sarak Godlewski and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson made similar comments calling for his resignation. Alex Lasry, a Milwaukee Bucks executive, called Johnson a “seditious traitor and a danger to our democracy” but stopped short of calling for him to resign, saying the only way Johnson will leave is if he’s defeated in November.

Nelson, who had earlier called for Johnson to be subpoenaed to testify before the Jan. 6 commission, said the revelations “go beyond anything I could have imagined for how far Ron Johnson would go to overturn our Wisconsin election result.”

He called for the Justice Department to investigate Johnson.

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