WASHINGTON – The Trump White House looked to Senator Ron Johnson to deliver a fake certificate of Wisconsin’s presidential electors in the critical hours ahead of the riotous January 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol.  Johnson’s role showed up in text messages unveiled by the U.S. House committee investigating the invasion. As soon as the messages were unveiled during live television coverage of the House hearings, Johnson fled his Capitol office to evade news reporters. With reporters in pursuit across the Capitol parking lot and between sweaty pants in the humid upper 80s as he tried to outpace reporters, Johnson denied any role himself in trying to deliver the list of fake electors. It was all done at a staff level, he said. The denial was dubious. How could any staffer choose to be a Lone Ranger on such a critical issue as deciding the presidency of the nation?  Too, the parking lot chase seemed telling. Johnson held his cell phone to his ear as he scurried out of the Capitol, pretending to be engaged in more important matters until a  reporter shouted at him that the phone  screen was blank. There was no call. Johnson’s attempted image as busy-on-he-phone was a ruse.

Johnson. Diehard Trump supporter. Finishing second term in U.S. Senate. Sitting here for official Senate portrait.

The back story

Although defeated by Joe Biden, Trump contrived a wide range of tactics to retain the presidency. These included creating a false list of electors in several states to muddy the complex electoral process. These lists were trickery made of whole cloth and had no legitimacy. The lists were intended to reach Vice President Mike Pence ahead of the constitutionallv required certification of the popular vote in every state. Somehow the fake Wisconsin list was delayed in transit to the Congressional archivist.

To get the list physically to Pence, who was presiding over the certification process at the Capitol, the White House urgently texted Johnson as a close ally of Trump.  The message: Please hand-deliver the Trumped-up list of Wisconsin electors as an alternate to the legitimate list. Johnson’s chief of staff, Sean Riley, then texted Chris Hodgson, an aide to Pence: “Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS,” the all-cap abbreviation being short-hand for “vice resident of the United States.” Hodgson texted back asking what the “something” was. Riley responded, “Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them.” By then, Pence had already decided to certify the legitimate electoral lists from the states. Hodgson replied to Riley, “Do not give that to him.”

Meanwhile, pro-Trump rioters had massed outside the Capitol and were preparing to invade to interrupt the certification process. They were chanting for assassinations. There firearms arms and batterung rams. The certification process was indeed interrupted. Members of Congress were evacuated into hiding spaces for their safety. Later, when Trump finally called off the rioters, the certification process resumed with Pence in charge. The process confirmed Biden as president 306-232.

In the aftermath, Johnson wasm as alwaysm excusing Trump. He characterized the invasion merely as tourists visiting their elected representatives – despite five deaths and 138 wounded police officers. Damage exceeded $1.5 million.