Speaker Johnson Was Among Top Backers of Trump 2020 Election Challenges

He urged President Trump to exhaust all the legal remedies, though he acknowledged reversal of the election results would have been exceedingly difficult.
Speaker Johnson Was Among Top Backers of Trump 2020 Election Challenges
Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is sworn in at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Oct. 25, 2023. (Tom Brenner/AFP via Getty Images)
Petr Svab

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the new Speaker of the House, was among the lawmakers most active in aiding President Donald Trump’s legal challenges of the 2020 election.

A constitutional law attorney, he led Republican Congress members to support an election challenge in the Supreme Court. He was also among those objecting to the counting of electoral votes from several states.

Apparently, he was in close contact with President Trump in the months following the election.

“I have just called President Trump to say this: ‘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,'” Mr. Johnson said in a tweet on Nov. 7, 2020, four days after the election.

The day after, he received a call from President Trump, he said.

“I was so encouraged to hear his resolve on this last night,” he told Louisiana conservative radio host Moon Griffon the following day.

“The President is dug in on this. He wants to ensure that every single legal vote is properly counted.”

He acknowledged the difficulty of challenging an election, but said there was “still reason for hope.”

“There is a lot of what we believe to be credible allegations of fraud and irregularities and it has to be properly investigated,” he said.

He criticized the mainstream media for calling the race for Democrat rival Joe Biden and “moving on” despite numerous allegations of irregularities.

“You have to let this play out and be done correctly, and I think we’re going to uncover a lot of things that are going to raise a lot of eyebrows,” he said, noting that 10 lawsuits were about to be filed.

Mr. Johnson said that as a law student he was involved in the 1996 Senate race in Louisiana where Republican Woody Jenkins challenged the tight-margin victory of Democrat Mary Landrieu. As he saw it, there was a lot of evidence of wrongdoing in the race, but it was never properly litigated.

“You have to have the hard evidence, you have to have smoking guns, or you have to have whistleblowers who will testify under oath. Those are very difficult things to do. You don’t just snap your fingers and discover all that and put it together overnight,” he said.

It was dangerous to let the allegations unresolved, he opined.

“You cannot allow that kind of evil to flourish. And it is evil. The integrity of our election system in our constitutional republic is an essential foundation of making our system work. And when people lose their faith in those foundations, in our institutions of government, then they just want to resolve their disputes in the streets,” he said.

A week later, he was giving another update on the election challenges, apparently after another conversation with President Trump.

“I’ve talked to the president in the last few days and he is still dug in on this,” he told local radio station KEEL News.

“I think all of us know intuitively that there was a lot amiss about this Election Day.”

He said there was “a lot of merit” to the argument that several swing states changed election rules without proper approval by the state legislatures and the allegations regarding some “rigged” voting machines.

He pointed out that a lot of voters complained that when they showed up to vote on Election Day, they were told that they already voted by mail and had to fill out provisional ballots. Their votes would still be counted, but that doesn’t address Americans in the same situation who didn’t show up to vote.

The allegations regarding voting machines haven’t been substantiated. When a few weeks later Mr. Johnson led 126 House Republican to file an amicus brief on an election challenge brought to the Supreme Court by Texas, their argument only focused on the lection rule changes.

Mr. Johnson argued in the interview that “we need to exhaust all the legal remedies,” but he also noted it was an “uphill climb.”

“The Big Media and Big Tech and Big Money, they all called this a long time ago” he said.

He acknowledged that some of the legal challenges to the election already failed at the time and the rest had a high bar to clear because they needed to be filed in state courts.

“What we know about most state district court judges is that they are elected and they’re very reluctant to get involved in this. So you have to have just an overwhelming mountain of evidence when you go into the court to sort of compel them to do the right thing and do their job and look at it objectively. If there’s anything missing, then they’ll just dismiss it. That’s an easy way out for the judges,” he said.

“And I’m not disparaging the character of every judge, but I’m telling you that it takes a lot of courage to do what they’re being asked to do. And the problem with these cases and the problem with every election fraud case is that they’re notoriously difficult to prove. You can know all this happened, but proving it is something different, and that’s be the challenge. And it takes a while to do it, and they haven’t had a lot of time.”

On Dec. 2, 2020, Mr. Johnson addressed the issue again an interview with American Enterprise Institute President Robert Doar.

He again stressed that President Trump should “exhaust all the legal remedies … to root out the fraud and the irregularity.”

He conceded that the debate on election reversal was turning “academic,” but insisted that the challenges still held meaning.

“Even if this current election is not capable of being overturned now—and it’s probably not, that’s the reality—we have to make sure that this does not happen again in the future,” he said.

In the following days The Supreme Court tossed the Texas challenge for a lack of standing.

“Some of us are very perplexed by this,” Mr. Johnson commented in another radio interview on Dec. 14.

He said the decision set a bad precedent, as it failed to decide the case on its merits, thus leaving open the question whether changes to election rules by anybody but state legislatures are constitutional.

He argued that the Constitution’s Electors Clause dictates that “only the state legislatures can set the rules for choosing electors in each state.”

“The court’s silence is going to suggest to a lot of people that it’s suddenly ok now, after more than two centuries, to play fast and loose with the rules when it becomes necessary to win elections,” he said.

On Jan. 6, Mr. Johnson was among the roughly 140 Republican members of Congress objecting to the counting of electoral votes from several states on the grounds that they were elected based on unconstitutional changes to election rules and were thus illegitimate.

“Given these inescapable facts, we believe we have no choice but to vote to sustain objections to those slates of electors,” Mr. Johnson and 36 others said in a release that morning.

Later that day, rioters disrupted the electoral vote count just as the lawmakers presented their objections. When the joint session of Congress reconvened several hours later, the objections were voted down and the election results were certified.