Sen. Ron Johnson recently made two payments to a law firm led by a Wisconsin attorney embroiled in the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation, in part to assist in a possible recount, according to financial disclosure forms filed Friday.
Johnson, R-Wis., made the payments to the law firm led by James Troupis, who is alleged to have played a role in a plan to reverse the 2020 election results through the use of “fake electors” that is under scrutiny by the federal government. Troupis, a lawyer for Donald Trump’s campaign, led Trump’s unsuccessful recount efforts in Wisconsin.
Johnson’s public explanations about whether he had a role in the plan — including what he has said about his interactions with Troupis in the hours before the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — are drawing scrutiny.
Johnson, locked in one of the closest Senate races in the country against Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, has paid a little over $20,000 in recent months to the Troupis Law Office in Cross Plains, Wis., according to new financial disclosure forms filed with the Federal Election Commission. Troupis is the firm’s principal.
On July 26, Johnson’s campaign paid $13,287 to Troupis Law for “legal consulting.” On Aug. 18, it paid $7,000 for what is listed on his financial records as “Recount: Legal Consulting.” Financial records suggest the only other financial interactions between Troupis and Johnson came in 2010, when Troupis donated $1,000 to Johnson’s campaign fund.
While campaigns sometimes prepare for different Election Day voting scenarios, Johnson’s payment for legal consulting on a possible recount to an outside law firm could be a sign that he expects the kind of dead-heat contest the battleground state is known for. Johnson has not said whether he would accept the results of the Nov. 8 election. Previous financial disclosure forms did not indicate previous payments to the Troupis firm. The records show he made regular payments, totaling at least $30,000 this year, to another law firm, Wiley Rein, for legal consulting.
A law firm representing Troupis did not immediately respond to a message Monday or to a phone message at the number he listed on the recount forms he filed on behalf of Trump in 2020. Other numbers publicly listed for the Troupis Law Office appear to have been disconnected or are inoperable.
Reached for comment Monday, a spokesman for Johnson’s campaign said, “We see no reason to participate in any way in another smear.”
Troupis was among the attorneys and Trump representatives named this year in government subpoenas the FBI served to some of the fake electors in June, according to a source with direct knowledge of the investigation. The Washington Post also reported, citing documents that were released as a part of a public records request, that two Arizona state legislators had received subpoenas for any communications they might have had with various Trump attorneys and representatives, including Troupis, “relating to any effort, plan, or attempt to serve as an Elector.” The Post also reported that around the same time — mid-June — multiple people in other states were served subpoenas as part of the fake elector investigation.
The alleged scheme had slates of Republicans send forms to Washington attesting that Trump won the 2020 election, even though he lost in their states.
Johnson’s previous financial disclosure forms also reveal that during his 2022 campaign, he received $8,700 in donations from another Trump attorney, Kenneth Chesebro, who is accused in a Wisconsin civil lawsuit of having played a central role in orchestrating the false elector effort. Chesebro, a New York-based lawyer, has also been subpoenaed by a Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury investigating allegations of efforts to overturn the 2020 election. A coalition of lawyers who form the advocacy group Lawyers Defending American Democracy has also recently asked New York attorneys regulators to investigate Chesebro, calling him the “mastermind” behind the false elector plot and accusing him of violating New York ethics rules in the process.
In February, The New York Times published a Nov. 18, 2020, memo from Chesebro addressed to Troupis laying out the elector strategy, which is also cited in the Wisconsin civil lawsuit that names Troupis and Chesebro as defendants.
Chesebro did not respond to a request for comment. An attorney for Chesebro, Adam S. Kaufmann, previously told The Times that Chesebro was offering a contingency plan to the Trump campaign if a court found evidence of fraud in battleground states where Trump was disputing the outcomes.
On May 11, Chesebro donated $5,800 to Johnson’s campaign, the maximum amount an individual can contribute during the primary under FEC rules. On May 16, he donated $2,900 more, which was credited to the general election.
Troupis and Chesebro were named in a May lawsuit in Wisconsin that alleges they were key players in the broader scheme to reverse Joe Biden’s victory that included gathering 10 “phony electors” to falsely attest that Trump was Wisconsin’s rightful winner. The lawsuit alleges that Troupis was a link between the Trump campaign and the fake electors.
The House committee investigating the riot first released communications between Johnson’s office and an aide to then-Vice President Mike Pence. In June, the panel released text messages between a top Johnson aide and an aide to Pence about passing along slates of electors from Wisconsin and Michigan. The Pence aide rebuffed Johnson’s office, according to the texts.
The first payment to the Troupis firm for legal consulting documented in the financial disclosure forms was made a month after Johnson acknowledged he personally texted with Troupis on Jan. 6, 2021, about passing along information involving what Troupis said was “Wisconsin electors” to Pence.
Johnson has denied knowing anything about the fake elector scheme, and as recently as this month he has appeared to distance himself from Troupis.
“What would you do if you got a text from the attorney for the president of the United States?” Johnson said at a recent event in Milwaukee. “You respond to it.”
According to testimony and documents obtained by the House Jan. 6 committee, the fake elector scheme sought to undermine Biden’s 2020 presidential victory by passing along to Pence slates of electors in battleground states who purported that Trump was the rightful winner.
The scheme failed, however, with Pence recognizing Biden’s victory.