Committee: Johnson staffer asked about delivering alternate slates of electors from Wisconsin, Michigan to Pence on Jan. 6
WASHINGTON — A staffer for Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson asked about delivering slates of so-called “alternate electors” falsely claiming former President Donald Trump won Wisconsin and Michigan’s electoral votes in the 2020 election to Vice President Mike Pence during the counting of electoral votes on January 6, 2021, according to evidence from the committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol that day.
During its hearing Tuesday afternoon, the committee made public text messages purportedly from Johnson staffer Sean Riley to Pence staffer Chris Hodgson on the afternoon of the vote counting saying the Republican senator “needs to hand something to VPOTUS.” When Hodgson asked what it was, Riley wrote “alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them.”
“Do not give that to him,” Hodgson replied less than one minute later.
WATCH: Jan. 6 committee shares texts between staffers for Johnson, Pence on alternate electors
A spokesperson for Johnson, Alexa Henning, tweeted a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying Johnson “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.”
“This was a staff to staff exchange. His new Chief of Staff contacted the Vice President’s office,” she wrote. “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.”
Later, Johnson told reporters, including CNN’s Manu Raju, the documents were delivered to his office and that he “didn’t know they were coming.”
Johnson said he “had no hand in any of it.”
“We got handed an envelope that was supposed to go to the vice president, I didn’t know… so we called up the vice president, he didn’t want it, we didn’t deliver it, end of story,” Johnson said. “This is such a non-story.”
Johnson also blasted the committee’s efforts as a “total partisan witch hunt.”
“If this was a real committee, they’d be asking ‘Why wasn’t the Capitol secured? Who’s in charge of that security?’” he said.
In January, the committee subpoenaed Andrew Hitt and Kelly Ruh, who they listed as the chairperson and secretary of Wisconsin’s alternate slate of electors, compelling them to provide more information about the effort.
The committee aired video of Hitt’s deposition during Tuesday’s hearing. In the video, Hitt said he was told the slates would only be used if a court ruled in Trump’s favor.
“That would have been using our electors — well, it would have been using our electors in ways that we weren’t told about and we wouldn’t have supported,” he said.
Last month, two Democratic electors from Wisconsin and a voter sued the Republican electors, arguing the alternate electors “not only helped lay the groundwork for the events of January 6, 2021, but also inflicted lasting damage on Wisconsin’s civic fabric.” Online court records show the case, which was filed in Dane County, has since been moved to federal court.
Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in an interview with News 3 Now Tuesday’s revelation shows “how closely tied Sen. Johnson’s office and he personally were to the events of January 6.”
“We know that he raised objections on the floor of Congress when the electoral votes were counted, but we did not know until today that his chief of staff — now chief of staff, then aide — was offering for Johnson to carry fake electoral documents to Washington with him to deliver to Vice President Pence,” he said.
Based on the text of the messages, Burden said it appears Riley was working at Johnson’s behest to deliver the alternate slates, adding Johnson will “be tagged personally with this.”
Burden also pushed back on the notion by some Republicans that offering a fake slate of electors simply kept their litigation options open.
“Once we had passed the casting of the electoral vote at the capitol in December, and then all of the lawsuits were exhausted about that same time, January 6 is another three weeks after that,” he said. “There was no doubt about who had won the election and what the electoral count would be, so it’s certainly not about keeping options open.”
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