Despite text, Sen. Ron Johnson insists he had no role in false electors aide sought to share with Pence

The Wisconsin lawmaker, facing some local outcry, claimed it was a "non-story."

June 21, 2022, 11:39 PM

Sen. Ron Johnson on Tuesday responded to the House Jan. 6 committee's findings that he apparently wanted to deliver fake electoral votes for Donald Trump from Wisconsin and Michigan to Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021.

In its hearing Tuesday afternoon, the committee revealed a text message from Jan. 6 between a senior Johnson aide, Sean Riley, and a member of Pence's team in which Riley wrote that Johnson "needs to hand something to VPOTUS."

When told the "something" was "alternate slates of electors" for Michigan and Wisconsin -- which Joe Biden won in the 2020 presidential election -- the Pence aide, Chris Hodgson, replied, "Do not give that to him," according to the text the committee showed.

Tuesday's evidence further underscored the extent to which Johnson or his team pursued means of contesting the last presidential race. The new details quickly led some Democratic challengers in Wisconsin to call for Johnson, who is seeking reelection for a third term, to step down.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said Johnson should resign, while Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry called him a "seditious traitor."

Alexa Henning, a spokeswoman for Johnson, insisted after the hearing that 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."

PHOTO: In this image from video released by the House Select Committee, text messages are displayed at a hearing by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, June 21, 2022.
In this image from video released by the House Select Committee, text messages are displayed at a hearing by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, June 21, 2022.
House Select Committee via AP

"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," Henning said in a statement to ABC News.

Asked about the incident on Tuesday night, Johnson said "nobody knows" who brought the "envelope" of fake electors to his office, but he added that it was "some staff intern" from an unnamed House office.

"Somebody from the House, some staff intern said, 'The Vice President needs this,' or whatever. I wasn't involved," he said.

The Wisconsin Republican, who declined to say if his office would cooperate with the House select committee's investigation, then said one of his staffers "went over" to the House to get the false electoral slates.

"We got contacted by somebody. I don't know who. 'We got this envelope for the vice president. Can you, Sen. Johnson, deliver it?' Because I'm obviously on the Senate floor. And the rest of the story is nothing," Johnson said.

"I didn't offer [to give it to Pence]. It was staff to staff," he contended.

"There's no conspiracy here," he said. "This is a complete non-story."

PHOTO: Sen. Ron Johnson leaves the Senate chambers after voting on infrastructure bill amendments at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Aug. 10, 2021.
Sen. Ron Johnson leaves the Senate chambers after voting on infrastructure bill amendments at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Aug. 10, 2021.
Bonnie Cash/UPI via Shutterstock

The Jan. 6 committee's Tuesday hearing focused on Trump's pressure campaign against state election officials and related efforts to overturn Biden's victory in key battleground states.

The panel examined Trump's strategy of putting forward false electors on his behalf from states actually won by Biden -- and revealed evidence, committee members argued, directly linking the former president to the effort.

According to the committee, in December 2020 the Trump campaign had convened groups of Republicans in key states like Wisconsin to cast their own, illegitimate electoral votes for Trump as the states certified Biden's victory, and they later attempted to send those false electors to Washington.

"Freaking Trump idiots want someone to fly original elector papers to the senate President," Wisconsin Republican Party executive director Mark Jefferson texted on Jan. 4, according to a message disclosed Tuesday by the committee. "They're going to call one of us to tell us just what the hell is going on."

ABC's Rachel Scott and Rick Klein contributed to this report

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