How Speaker Mike Johnson kept pushing to overturn the 2020 election

Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson led a campaign to keep former President Donald Trump in the White House after losing the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

On 5 January 2021, the day before the violent insurrection at the US Capitol, Mr Johnson met with other Republicans behind closed doors to discuss what Congress had to do the following day.

While Mr Johnson was a junior member of the caucus at this stage, he nevertheless spoke up in support of the notion that the GOP should back Mr Trump and object to the counting of the electoral votes from a number of key states won by Mr Biden.

‘I’ve prayed for each of you individually’

“This is a very weighty decision. All of us have prayed for God’s discernment. I know I’ve prayed for each of you individually,” Mr Johnson said at the time, according to Politico.

He then argued that they should join him in voting against certifying the results.

Following the 3 November 2020 election, Mr Johnson led the legal effort to keep Mr Trump in office. Even as Mr Trump’s myriad legal challenges failed, Mr Johnson ploughed ahead.

Mr Johnson announced that he would support a Texas lawsuit against four states attempting to invalidate their results on 8 December 2020. The Louisiana Republican said he would back the effort with a brief signed by other members of Congress.

During this time, Mr Johnson often spoke to Mr Trump.

At the internal meeting on 5 January 2021, Reps Chip Roy and Don Bacon both slammed Mr Johnson’s plan, arguing that it would lead to a constitutional crisis.

“Let us not turn the last firewall for liberty we have remaining on its head in a bit of populist rage for political expediency,” Mr Roy said at the time, according to Politico.

Mr Roy and Mr Bacon both voted for Mr Johnson when he became speaker on Wednesday 25 October.

Calls with Donald Trump: ‘Stay strong and keep fighting, sir!’

On the day that most media outlets called the election for Mr Biden, 7 November 2020, Mr Johnson tweeted that he had “just called” Mr Trump to tell him to “Stay strong and keep fighting, sir! The nation is depending upon your resolve. We must exhaust every available legal remedy to restore Americans’ trust in the fairness of our election system”.

On 9 November 2020, Mr Johnson added on the social media platform that Mr Trump called him the previous evening.

“I was encouraged to hear his continued resolve to ensure that every LEGAL vote gets properly counted and that all instances of fraud and illegality are investigated and prosecuted. Fair elections are worth fighting for!” he wrote.

Mr Johnson appeared on the Moon Griffon Show on 9 November 2020, and spoke about his call with Mr Trump, saying they were ready to go to the US Supreme Court. He added that Mr Trump had shared that he was uplifted by Justice Samuel Alito issuing an order for Pennsylvania to split up absentee ballots that arrived late in the event that they were found to be invalid.

“That’s a good sign,” Mr Johnson told the Lafayette host. “I think there’s at least five justices on the court that will do the right thing.”

At the time, Mr Johnson indicated that at least 10 lawsuits would be filed, adding that he hoped one of the filings would appear in a “rocket docket” making its way to the top court.

Views of election fraud shaped by 1996 Senate race

He said that his views on election fraud came to be shaped by the 1996 Senate race between Republican Woody Jenkins and Democrat Mary Landrieu.

“I was a young pup law student at the time, but I was kind of carrying around everyone’s briefcases trying to help,” he said, claiming that there was evidence of fraud but that the Democrats “buried it all”.

On 17 November, Mr Johnson told KEEL News in Shreveport that the election wasn’t over.

“I don’t concede anything,” he told the radio station. “I’ve talked to the president in the last few days, and he is still dug in on this.”

Mr Johnson also cited a number of allegations that certain changes in laws governing elections in key states had been unconstitutional, and he then put the debunked allegations that voting machines had been tampered with.

“The allegation about these voting machines, some of them being rigged with the software by Dominion — look, there’s a lot of merit to that,” he said.

The broadcasting of these allegations led to Fox News paying almost $800m to Dominion in a settlement in their defamation lawsuit.

Pushing outlandish theories

He also shared the outlandish theory that the “software system that is used all around the country that is suspect because it came from Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela”.

Trump lawyer Sidney Powell who pushed the same claim regarding Mr Chavez, who died in 2013, pleaded guilty earlier this month to six misdemeanour counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties.

Sidney Powell pleaded guilty earlier this month to six misdemeanour counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties (FULTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE/A)
Sidney Powell pleaded guilty earlier this month to six misdemeanour counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties (FULTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE/A)

Mr Trump tweeted on 9 December 2020: “We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!”

“President Trump called me this morning to let me know how much he appreciates the amicus brief we are filing on behalf of Members of Congress. Indeed, ‘this is the big one!’” Mr Johnson added within the hour. 

The amicus brief, signed by 126 Republicans, revealed that more than half the House caucus was willing to object to the results. Less than a month later, 140 Republicans objected on the floor of the House on January 6, 2021 – before and after the violent attack on Congress and the peaceful transfer of power.

But the Supreme Court rejected the Texas lawsuit 7-2, arguing that the state didn’t have standing to sue.

Mr Johnson shared his disappointment on several occasions but kept pushing the idea that “no one knows yet how this will play out,” as he told KEEL News on the morning of 14 December – the day that the Electoral College vote was finalised.

Mr Johnson and 36 others shared a statement on the morning of 6 January 20201, arguing that “Our extraordinary republic has endured for nearly two and a half centuries based on the consent of the governed”.

“That consent is grounded in the confidence of our people in the legitimacy of our institutions of government. Among our most fundamental institutions is the system of free and fair elections we rely upon, and any erosion in that foundation jeopardizes the stability of our republic,” they added.

‘Who can appease Donald Trump?’

On Wednesday, during his speech nominating Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries for speaker, Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar argued that the GOP didn’t care about “growing the middle class, helping our communities keeping the cost of health care lower and making life for everyday Americans better,” when picking a new speaker.

“This has been about one thing, this has been about who can appease Donald Trump?” he said.

“House Republicans have put their names behind someone who has been called the most important architect of the Electoral College objections,” Mr Aguilar added. “He spearheaded the legal effort joined by more than 100 of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle in support of a dangerous and baseless lawsuit to overturn the results of the 2020 election.”

“On the eve of January 6, some of my Republican colleagues even called this a failed strategy. Yet those same individuals plan to stand right next to him today,” he continued. “Democrats believe that when members of this body voted to reject the results of the 2020 election they forfeited their ability to lead this chamber.”

The Independent has reached out to the office of Mr Johnson for comment.