Days before, the former Wisconsin congressman and House Speaker publicly warned that self-governance is about the will of the people and not the whims of Congress.
When former Wisconsin congressman and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan put out a forceful public statement three days before the Jan. 6 insurrection—lashing out at reports that fellow Republicans were considering throwing out legally certified electoral votes—he was also privately reaching out to Vice President Mike Pence, according to testimony from Pence’s chief of staff released Thursday by the January 6th Committee.
“Speaker Ryan wanted to call and say, you know, you don’t have any greater authority,” said Marc Short in the videotaped testimony. “I said to him, Mr. Speaker, you know Mike. You know he doesn’t — you know, he recognizes that. And we sort of laughed about it, and he said ‘I get it.’ And he [Ryan] later spoke to the Vice President too—to, I think, have the same conversation.”
Publicly, Ryan said that “it is difficult to conceive of a more anti-democratic and anti-conservative act than a federal intervention to overturn the results of state-certified elections and disenfranchise millions of Americans.”
“Under our system,” Ryan wrote, “voters determine the president, and this self-governance cannot sustain itself if the whims of Congress replace the will of the people.”
The January 6th Committee spent much of Thursday reviewing the plan by Trump campaign attorney John Eastman to overturn the election by casting false doubts on the results so that members of Congress could justify objecting to them and set up Republican-controlled state legislatures to overturn them. Eastman continued that effort in Wisconsin as recently as this past March.
At that point, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had joined other Republicans in urging Congress to impose a 10-day delay in counting the electoral votes so a special commission could conduct a nationwide audit and state legislatures could be allowed to use the commission’s findings to overrule the legally-cast ballots of November 3, 2020.
Ryan said a plan like that would surely fail but would also do significant damage to American democracy.
“The Trump campaign had ample opportunity to challenge election results, and those efforts failed from lack of evidence,” Ryan wrote in his conclusion. “The legal process was exhausted, and the results were decisively confirmed. The Department of Justice, too, found no basis for overturning the result. If states wish to reform their processes for future elections, that is their prerogative. But Joe Biden’s victory is entirely legitimate.”
Johnson, who had already admitted privately that Biden had won legitimately, was one of the leading voices prior to the insurrection for objecting to the electoral counts from disputed states like Wisconsin and frequently spread disinformation—some of it originating in Russia—about the election.