manu ron johnson
CNN reporter presses GOP senator over texts about fake electors
01:49 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

If you blinked – or looked away from your TV for a minute – you might have missed it.

During Tuesday’s January 6 committee hearing, a series of text messages between Sean Riley, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s chief of staff, and Chris Hodgson, who was then-Vice President Mike Pence’s legislative director, were revealed.

Here’s their exchange from January 6, 2021, as provided by the committee:

Riley: “Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise”

Hodgson: “What is it?”

Riley: “Alternative slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them”

Hodgson: “Do not give that to him”

Which is interesting! A top aide to a US senator trying to get a slate of alternate electors from two swing states in the hands of the vice president of the United State is a pretty big deal.

Naturally, Johnson himself was asked about his office’s involvement in the fake electors scheme. Here’s some of his back-and-forth with CNN’s Manu Raju and other reporters on Tuesday following the hearing:

Johnson: “These things were delivered to our office – I didn’t know they were coming. I had no hand in it. My staff – my chief of staff did the right thing, he called up the vice president. He didn’t want it, we didn’t send it to him. End of story.”

Raju: “Why did you just deliver that to the vice president without vetting it or asking more questions about it?”

Johnson: “I didn’t deliver it. We called them up. We called them up. He didn’t want it. We didn’t deliver it. End of story.”

Raju: “But why did you even offer it without vetting it?”

Johnson: “We got handed an envelope that was supposed to go to the vice president, I didn’t know. So we called, we called up the vice president, he didn’t want it. We didn’t deliver it. It’s a non-story – guys this is such a non-story.”

Reporter: “Was that the first you had heard of it when you received the envelope?”

Johnson: “Yeah.”

Reporter: “And who, do you remember who gave it to you?”

Johnson: “No, it was a staff-to-staff deal. I mean, it apparently had Michigan and Wisconsin. I had no hand in any of it. Again, this, this, this lasted a couple minutes in our office. Then the episode was over. And this – guys it’s a total non-story.”

Raju: “Are you gonna ask your aides about who this person was? Have you asked–”

Johnson: “We didn’t know – literally don’t – it was a staff to staff – somebody from the House, some staff intern, you know, said we got to, the vice president needs this or whatever. I wasn’t involved. I don’t know what they said. But, but, but somebody from the House delivered to a staff member in my office, my chief of staff called the vice president, ‘hey, we got this.’ And the vice president said ‘don’t deliver it,’ and we didn’t.”

Raju: “Are you curious about the identity of this person? Do you want to ask about it?”

Johnson: “No. No, because there’s no conspiracy here. This is a complete non-story, guys. Complete non-story.”

Well that clears things up not at all!

Let’s take Johnson at his word and walk through how he says this all played out.

Step 1: A “staff intern” in the House gave the slates of fake electors in Michigan to Wisconsin to Johnson’s office.

Step 2: Someone on Johnson’s staff alerted Riley, the top aide, to let him know that they had these fake electors slate in their possession.

Step 3: Riley reached out to the vice president’s office and said they had the fake electors and needed to get it to Pence. Hodgson said not to do so. And that’s that.

That timeline, um, raises a few questions.

1) Who is the “staff intern” who somehow had copies of fake electors in two swing states?

2) How did a House intern wind up with these documents?

3) Given the source – again, according to Johnson, a “staff intern” – why did Johnson’s office look to get the fake electors in Pence’s hands?

4) After Hodgson told Riley not to give the electors document to Pence, what exactly did Riley do with the documents? Did he just throw them out? Or did he reach out to any other people in an effort to get them seen by either the vice president or someone in his office?

The simple fact is that Johnson’s answer on the fake electors raises more questions than it answers. A lot more.