Well before he was elected House speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., played a key role in efforts by then-President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Joe Biden’s electoral victory in the 2020 election.
Johnson, who was the GOP caucus vice chair and is an ally of Trump, led the amicus brief signed by more than 100 House Republicans in support of a Texas lawsuit seeking to invalidate the 2020 election results in four swing states Biden won: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The lawsuit, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, called on the Supreme Court to delay the electoral vote in the four states so investigations on voting issues could continue amid Trump’s refusal to concede his loss. It alleged that the four states changed their voting rules without their legislatures’ express approval before the 2020 election.
Johnson at the time sought support from his GOP colleagues for the lawsuit, sending them an email with the subject line “Time-sensitive request from President Trump.”
“President Trump called me this morning to express his great appreciation for our effort to file an amicus brief in the Texas case on behalf of concerned Members of Congress,” Johnson wrote in the December 2020 email, which was obtained by NBC News.
“He specifically asked me to contact all Republican Members of the House and Senate today and request that all join on to our brief,” he continued. “He said he will be anxiously awaiting the final list to review.”
The lawsuit swiftly drew backlash from battleground state attorneys general, who decried it as a “publicity stunt” full of “false and irresponsible” allegations. Legal experts also pointed to a series of hurdles the lawsuit had faced, saying Texas lacked the authority to claim that officials in other states failed to follow the rules set by their legislatures.
Johnson’s role in pursuing efforts to overturn the 2020 election results has regained attention recently amid his speakership bid. On Tuesday, the political team of Republican former Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — who broke with Trump over his baseless claims of a stolen election — circulated a New York Times article that called him “the most important architect of the Electoral College objections” on Jan. 6, 2021, aimed at keeping Trump in office even after he lost.
The Times reported last year that many Republicans who voted to discount pro-Biden electors cited an argument crafted by Johnson, which was to ignore the false claims about mass fraud in the election and instead hang the objection on the claim that certain states’ voting changes during the Covid-19 pandemic were unconstitutional.
As rioters were overtaking the Capitol on Jan. 6, Johnson told Fox News in an interview that there was "nothing unusual" about Republican lawmakers' objections to the Electoral College certification and that "there’ve been many objections over the years.”
“I’m here as one of the advocates on the Republican side, stating our concerns about this election and the allegations of fraud and the irregularity and all that," he said.
The Supreme Court ultimately rejected Texas’ effort to overturn the election results.
“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said in a brief unsigned opinion.