WASHINGTON — In a combative interview on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., repeatedly defended an effort by himself and other Republican allies to challenge the legitimacy of President-elect Joe Biden’s election.
Johnson insisted that a group of nearly a dozen GOP Senators were pushing to create a bipartisan commission to investigate allegations of fraud in the 2020 election because “there are tens of millions of Americans who believe this election was stolen.”
Dozens of court cases filed by President Donald Trump and his allies challenging those results have been dismissed in recent weeks, however, even as the president and his lawyers continue have spent those weeks spreading unfounded claims of widespread election fraud.
“We are not acting to thwart the democratic process — we are acting to protect it," Johnson said. "The fact of the matter is we have an unsustainable state of affairs in this country where we have tens of millions of people who do not view this election result as legitimate."
Johnson is one of the 11 Republican senators demanding that Congress create a commission to audit the 2020 election ahead of this week’s vote to accept the results of the Electoral College, which Biden won, or else they intend to formally object to the results from certain states. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., had previously announced he’d object, and a large group of House Republicans are expected to as well.
Pointing to those challenges, Johnson claimed that the effort is a way to restore confidence in the process.
“As long as somebody is going to be objecting to this and we’re going to take a vote, let’s propose a solution in terms of transparency, investigation, with a commission,” he said.
When asked which candidate won Wisconsin (a state that certified Biden’s victory in December), Johnson replied, “Vice President Biden has won by 20,000 votes, but there are also issues in Wisconsin.”
And he dismissed the idea that he and other Republicans who have been floating theories of election fraud for weeks are responsible for what Johnson earlier called “an unsustainable state of affairs in this country.”
“This fire was started in January of 2017,” Johnson said, arguing that Democratic opposition to Trump and bias in the media poisoned the well. “I didn’t light this fire.”
Any objection will not change the outcome of the presidential race — majorities in both the House and the Senate would have to agree before it could toss a state’s electoral votes, something the Democratic-controlled House wouldn’t go for.
But the move would trigger a prolonged debate and could force lawmakers to take a formal vote on whether to accept the results, a vote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately opposed for fear the vote could put vulnerable Republican senators in a tough spot ahead of their 2022 re-election bids.
Trump has spent weeks floating unfounded claims of widespread election fraud, and after his legal team and their allies have lost dozens of legal challenges to the presidential election, including one suit by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, that had attempted to compel Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally overrule states and select pro-Trump presidential electors.
The unprecedented move prompted bipartisan condemnation. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, blasted the “egregious ploy” that “dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in her own statement, compared accepting the Electoral College results to her oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
And dozens of Democrats have criticized the decision as well, including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who called the move “un-American” and a “publicity stunt,” as well as Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who warned that “these Senators’ underlying belief is that if a Democrat wins an election, it is illegitimate by definition.”
“They don’t have the votes to overthrow democracy this time/ But the precedent they set could, sooner than you think,” he tweeted.