In its Tuesday hearing, the Jan. 6 committee showed text messages between Sean Riley, Johnson’s chief of staff, and Chris Hodgson, a Pence staffer.
Riley: “Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise.”
Hodgson: “What is it?”
Riley: “Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them.”
Hodgson: “Do not give that to him.”
After the hearing, Johnson claimed to have “no idea” where the alternate slates came from, saying, “I was aware that we got this package and that somebody wanted us to deliver it. So we reached out to Pence’s office.”
On Thursday, Johnson admitted that he did have some idea where they came from. Specifically, Johnson was contacted by Jim Troupis, a Wisconsin attorney who worked to get his state’s election overturned in Trump’s favor. Troupis texted Johnson that he wanted to get a document on “Wisconsin electors” to Pence. Johnson passed Troupis along to Riley, his chief of staff, and Riley proceeded as we see in the text messages quoted above.
Johnson also said Tuesday, “We didn’t know—literally don’t—it was a staff-to-staff—somebody from the House, some staff intern, you know, said we got to, to the vice president needs this or whatever.” It turns out that Rep. Mike Kelly got Troupis to contact Johnson in the effort to get Johnson to give the documents to Pence.
Johnson’s current claim is that he didn’t know what was in the documents Troupis was trying to get to Pence. Right. Johnson was contacted by someone known for trying to overturn the election wanting to reach Mike Pence about something election-related on the day Pence was slated to certify the election, and he connected that person not to a junior staffer but to his chief of staff, who promptly brought it to a vice-presidential staffer, but Johnson had no clue what any of it was about. That’s just the kind of constituent service Ron Johnson offers, I guess. If you text him, he’ll just try to get your documents to the vice president, no questions asked.
In a Thursday tweet, Johnson tried to portray all this as exculpatory, writing, “The 1/6 committee’s partisan witch-hunt is revealed. They smeared me with partial and incomplete information,” and linking a conservative reporter’s description of the events. But the fact that Johnson and his staff listened when Pence’s staff said not to give Pence the documents does not actually mean Johnson didn’t try to get Pence the fake elector slates. It just means he didn’t succeed. And given that his Tuesday claims about how his staff became involved in the effort quickly proved false, Johnson’s claim that he didn’t know what was in the documents looks extra flimsy.