Jan. 6 docs reveal new information about Sen. Johnson’s involvement in Wis. alternate elector scheme
MADISON, Wis. — Newly-released documents from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol reveal Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson was involved in early December discussions about having the Legislature select a slate of electors, shortly after then-President Donald Trump had been defeated in Wisconsin by President Joe Biden.
Earlier this year, a spokesperson for Johnson said the senator had no involvement in the creation of an alternate slate of electors for Trump.
RELATED: Committee: Johnson staffer asked about delivering alternate slates of electors from Wisconsin, Michigan to Pence on Jan. 6
Former party chair testifies to conversations in early December with Sen. Johnson
Days before a group of Republicans met as a false slate of electors to the electoral college, Johnson said the state needed to have the Legislature choose which slate of electors to send to Washington, D.C., then-Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman Andrew Hitt told the Jan. 6 committee in a deposition in late February 2022.
The false electors met in Madison in the event legal challenges overturned then-president-elect Biden’s victory over Trump in 2020.
The committee finished its work Monday, releasing new troves of documents and transcripts of depositions, including its depositions of Hitt and another false Wisconsin elector, both of whom signed the paperwork to deliver an alternate slate of electors for Trump to Congress.
CLICK OR TAP HERE: Full transcript of Hitt’s deposition
During the deposition, Hitt said Johnson called him after a Dec. 7 conference call with Republican county chairs for which Johnson was present. During that conversation with county chairs, Hitt said he pushed back on the idea that votes had been “dumped” in Milwaukee, and gave them an update on recount litigation.
“I remember I got very forceful on the call regarding the Milwaukee vote and the Milwaukee so-called vote dump,” Hitt said. “Ron called me afterwards, I think he was a little surprised about — about kind of how forceful I was and said, you know, we need to — we need to have our Legislature choose the electors. I — I know that I was not in support of that, that the Legislature would likely not do that. I think, by that time, there was already a memo out from the Legislative Counsel [sic] that said the Legislature didn’t have the power to do that. And so I, you know, conveyed that to him.”
When asked how Johnson responded, Hitt said he did not recall.
The committee then asked Hitt if Johnson said he was going to ask the Legislature to appoint the Republican slate of electors, Hitt said he did not, but that there might be “news reports” of him considering it. Later in the deposition, he said Johnson’s comment was more of a “general complaint” and that the Legislature should do it.
“He didn’t ask me to call anybody,” Hitt continued. “I don’t know if he implied he was implying that I should. Certainly, I think it would be fair that he would have left the conversation or understanding that I wasn’t going to do that.”
In a statement to News 3 Now, a spokesperson for Johnson said the senator doesn’t recall the conversation referenced in the texts and that he was consistent in his position.
“There’s no mention of the governor in the Constitution” when it comes to running elections, Johnson said in November of 2021. “It says state legislatures, and so if I were running the joint —and I’m not — I would come out and I would just say, ‘We’re reclaiming our authority. Don’t listen to WEC anymore. Their guidances are null and void.'”
He added at the time: “I think the state Legislature has to reassert, reclaim this authority over our election system.”
How the Dec. 14 meeting happened
When discussing the decision to have the alternate slate of electors appointed, Hitt told the committee that the state party’s outside legal counsel Joe Olson discussed a similar instance in Hawaii involving a dispute over electors and why the competing slate would have to meet.
At several points throughout the deposition, Hitt told the committee he had not heard of an option to use the alternate slate of electors if Trump’s legal challenges failed, and that his understanding was that this was only for use if legal challenges prevailed.
“I would have had significant concerns about that,” he said.
Ultimately, the party’s legal counsel’s advice pushed through the meeting to sign the paperwork on Dec. 14. As he understood it, the alternate slate of electors would only matter if a court said so, he added.
During the deposition, Hitt also voiced concerns about “national figures,” including Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, going on TV and “saying things that were not accurate about what occurred in Wisconsin.”
“They would talk about how the absentee ballot requirements that were being contested only occurred in Dane County, which is where Madison is, and Milwaukee County. That simply wasn’t true,” Hitt said. “They said the same thing, I believe, for indefinite confinement.”
“I was concerned because every time I turned on the TV, or nearly every time I turned on the TV, some national figure was saying something that was simply inaccurate about Wisconsin.”
Hitt stepped down as the party’s chairman in 2021; at the time, he said he was doing so to focus on his family and career in the private sector.
De Pere elector said she didn’t think paperwork would have legal significance
Members of the Jan. 6 committee also deposed Kelly Ruh, a De Pere city council member and Republican Party district chair of Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District. Ruh had been selected as one of the electors in Wisconsin that would sign the state’s paperwork if Trump won the state.
She told the committee in her deposition that Mark Jefferson, the executive director of the state’s Republican Party, texted her on Dec. 3, telling her she may still need to come to Madison for a meeting of electors on Dec. 14. She later texted a friend, saying she was “pissed” that she still had to travel to Madison for the meeting after Biden’s apparent victory in the state.
“After Biden had won the State, was not planning to do that,” she said in her deposition. “I was not expecting a [Donald Trump win] to prevail in the courts and was obviously pissed that I would be using a personal day off to go and complete that process.”
CLICK OR TAP HERE: Full transcript of Ruh’s deposition
It was her understanding that there was never any legal significance to the paperwork, she confirmed to the committee, because a court or state legislature wasn’t likely to ratify or adopt them.
She told the committee that she had not heard of plans in other states to complete a similar process and that she had no idea after she had signed the paperwork where it would go or how it might be used. In a text to another friend before the trip to Madison, she said to keep it “hush hush” — something she told the committee was for her personal safety.
She also described in texts to a friend a personal conversation she had with Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher after she had signed. He had told her in that conversation that he couldn’t vote to overturn the state’s electoral votes, and she agreed with him.
“I believe we had talked about the pressure he was receiving from conservatives, from Republicans, in the State to overturn electoral votes,’ she told the committee. “He explained his rationale for why he didn’t support that, and I agreed with him.”
Investigating the alternate elector plan
Just under one year ago, the House committee issued subpoenas for 14 people from seven states — including Hitt and Ruh from Wisconsin — seeking to learn more about plans to submit the alternate slates of electors falsely declaring Trump had won the election in each of those states. Both spoke to the committee in late February.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was also subpoenaed by the committee, with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting that testimony revealed he had 10 calls with Trump after the 2020 election.
CLICK OR TAP HERE: Full transcript of Vos’ deposition
In June, the committee made public text messages from Sean Riley, a staffer for Johnson, to Chris Hodgson, a staffer for then-Vice President Mike Pence, on the afternoon of the vote counting at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
In the exchange, Riley said Johnson “needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise.” When Hodgson asked what it was, Riley wrote back “Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them.”
“Do not give that to him,” Hodgson replied.
Alexa Henning, a spokesperson for Johnson at the time, tweeted the senator “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,” she tweeted. “His new Chief of Staff contacted the Vice President’s office. 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.”
News 3 Now’s Will Kenneally also contributed to this report.
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