The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection in the U.S. Capitol released a text exchange Tuesday between Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Mike Pence’s staffers that showed an attempt to hand the then Vice President fake electors for Wisconsin and Michigan in the 2020 presidential election.
"Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise," Johnson aide Sean Riley wrote in a text message to Pence staffer Chris Hodgson on Jan. 6, just hours before the results of the election were certified.
After Hodgson asked, “What is it?” Riley said he planned to hand Pence an "alternate slate of electors for MI and WI.”
"Do not give that to him,” Hodgson responded, which is where the released excerpt of the texts ends.
The House select committee was established early last year with the goal of “investigating and reporting upon the facts, circumstances, and causes relating to the January 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol complex.”
Tuesday's release of the text messages was part of a larger hearing that investigated former President Trump and his allies’ deliberate attempt to coerce officials into overturning the 2020 presidential election results.
The text messages between Riley and Hogdson were the first piece of tangible evidence that connected Johnson to direct interference with 2020 election results.
Johnson claimed he had “no involvement” in offering the false electors to Pence.
“I had no idea this’d even be delivered to us, got delivered staff to staff," he told CNN correspondent Manu Raju. “My chief of staff did the right thing, contacted the Vice President's staff. They said they didn't want it so we didn't deliver it.”
After initially hinting toward formally objecting to Wisconsin’s election results, Johnson joined eight other Senators in signing a formal objection to Arizona’s election results in early 2021. However, Johnson backtracked and voted to accept Arizona’s electoral results after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Though Johnson acknowledged former President Trump’s defeat in Wisconsin and never formally objected to the state’s electors, he has continuously supported former Justice Michael Gableman’s probe into Wisconsin’s 2020 election results.
“There were many irregularities that have yet to be fully explained, fully investigated and solutions passed to restore confidence in future elections,” Johnson told The Hill last September. “I’ve investigated many of the irregularities, explained some and have not gotten answers on many.”
Johnson added that he “acknowledged that we should respect our system of individual state certification of election results, and that in Wisconsin, there is nothing obviously wrong with the statewide results.”
Former Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Andrew Hitt also testified in front of the Jan. 6 committee Tuesday. Hitt admitted he had submitted elector paperwork asserting that he was to be a Trump elector, but only expected it to be used if Trump won his lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results.
"I was told that these would only count if a court ruled in our favor. So that would have been using our electors. Well, would have been using our electors in ways that we weren't told about and we wouldn't have supported," he said in his testimony, indicating he was unaware of Johnson’s plan to later submit those documents through Congress.
Johnson’s Democratic challengers for the upcoming Wisconsin Senate election offered harsh words after his texts to Pence were released Tuesday.
“Ron Johnson tried to overturn our election and destroy our democratic process. I'm calling on him to resign,” Senate candidate and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes tweeted.
State Treasurer Sara Godlewski, who is also running for the Senate seat, joined several other Democrats calling on Johnson to resign. Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry called Johnson a “seditious traitor” in a tweet on Tuesday but did not immediately call for his resignation.
Ian Wilder is a current features writer and former state politics reporter for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.