Two Ron Johnson

The Republican senator has changed his story about his level of involvement in former President Donald Trump’s plot to stuff the electoral ballot box and hijack the 2020 presidential election.

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson changed his story again on Thursday about how fraudulent electoral ballots came to be in his office, saying they came from a Pennsylvania congressman. But that congressman’s office immediately replied that Johnson’s claim was “patently false.”

The ballots, cast and submitted by fake electors in Wisconsin and Michigan, were part of a strategy by former President Donald Trump to hijack and overturn the actual results of the 2020 presidential election.

On Tuesday, the select congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol revealed texts indicating that Johnson may have been minutes away from passing the fraudulent ballots to then-Vice President Mike Pence as the joint session to count electoral votes was getting underway. The texts show an aide to Pence adamantly rejected the offer for Johnson to deliver them.

In this image from video released by the House Select Committee, text messages are displayed in an exchange between Sean Riley, the chief of staff to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and Chris Hodgson, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, on Jan. 6, 2021. The texts were released at a hearing by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, Tuesday, June 21, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (House Select Committee via AP)

Johnson initially feigned ignorance to the revelation.

“We didn’t know — literally don’t – it was staff to staff – somebody from the House, some staff intern said … the Vice President needs this or whatever. I wasn’t involved. I don’t know what they said,” Johnson said hurriedly while walking outside the US Capitol on Tuesday.

Johnson went from blaming an intern to blaming his chief of staff. Then on Thursday he told a Madison right-wing radio host that the ballots from the fake electors somehow came from a member of the House of Representatives.

“And we found out now this came from Pennsylvania congressman Mike Kelly’s office, so we couldn’t even remember who delivered this to us.”

Kelly’s office quickly put out a statement blasting Johnson.

“Sen. Johnson’s statements about Representative Kelly are patently false. Mr. Kelly has not spoken to Sen. Johnson for the better part of a decade, and he has no knowledge of the claims Mr. Johnson is making related to the 2020 election.”

Johnson has also acknowledged that the ballots didn’t arrive out of thin air. He was contacted on the morning of Jan. 6 by Jim Troupis, a Dane County attorney who had been working with the Trump campaign on recounts in Wisconsin, about getting a document about “Wisconsin electors” to the vice president.

“Need to get a document on Wisconsin electors to you and the VP immediately,” texted Troupis, according to Politico. “Is there a staff person I can talk to immediately? Thanks, Jim.”

Johnson said he introduced Troupis to his chief of staff Sean Riley via text. It was Riley’s text to a Pence aide offering to deliver the fraudulent ballots—and the quick rejection of that offer—that was released by the committee on Tuesday.

The Trump slates of electors met on the same day as the real electors convened in several state capitols. The fake electors in Wisconsin and elsewhere claimed they were submitting paperwork in case a court found election fraud that would overturn President Joe Biden’s victory, but at that point Trump had already lost almost every court challenge.

It was later revealed that the fake electors’ meetings and ballots were part of a coordinated Trump strategy. The Jan. 6 Committee heard last week how Trump pressured Pence to disregard the legal Biden ballots from several states and simply declare Trump’s slates were the ones to be counted. At the very least, Trump wanted Pence to express doubt about the outcome, halt the tallying, and give Republican-controlled state legislatures the opportunity to overturn the election results in their own states and replace the rightful Biden electors with Trump slates.