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Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks after he was chosen as the Republicans latest nominee for House speaker at a Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 24, 2023.(AP) Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks after he was chosen as the Republicans latest nominee for House speaker at a Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 24, 2023.(AP)

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks after he was chosen as the Republicans latest nominee for House speaker at a Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 24, 2023.(AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman October 26, 2023

If Your Time is short

  • In December 2020, U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., sought to persuade Republican colleagues to sign an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out results from four states.

  • Johnson voted against certifying the vote for Joe Biden in January 2021. 

  • Johnson spread debunked falsehoods about voter fraud following the 2020 election.

After House Republicans unanimously voted for Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., as the new speaker, Democratic politicians pounced on them for choosing someone who defied democratic norms after the 2020 presidential election.

Johnson aligned himself with Donald Trump and congressional Republicans who sought to overturn legitimate results ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

Johnson’s efforts went beyond tweets and votes, the Democrats said after the Oct. 25 speaker vote.

The Biden-Harris campaign called Johnson "a leading 2020 election denier." U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., called Johnson "the chief architect" of the effort to overturn election results.

Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said on the House floor, "Republicans have put their names behind someone who has been called the most important architect of the Electoral College objections," borrowing a phrase from a New York Times analysis of Johnson’s role.

U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., responded with defiance, hollering, "Damn right!" 

Republicans booed ABC News reporter Rachel Scott for asking Johnson about his efforts to overturn the election. One lawmaker told Scott to "shut up." Johnson grinned, shook his head and said, "Next question."

Calling Johnson the "chief architect" may be a stretch. Johnson was not among those charged in the federal or Fulton County, Georgia, election subversion cases, and he barely got a mention in the final Jan. 6 committee report. Johnson, a lawyer for decades, was not the public face of Trump’s battle in the courts and in public, unlike lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

However, Johnson played a key role in the effort to get lawmakers to sign onto trying to overturn the election in the courts and to vote against congressional certification. 

Johnson’s term as speaker runs through at least early January 2025 — meaning he will preside over the House as it votes to formally accept the results of the 2024 election.

Johnson urged House Republicans to join Texas lawsuit

Johnson aligned himself with Trump’s response to the election results early on.

On Nov. 7, the day that media outlets projected Biden’s win, Johnson tweeted, "I have just called President Trump to say this: ‘Stay strong and keep fighting, sir! The nation is depending upon your resolve. We must exhaust every available legal remedy to restore Americans' trust in the fairness of our election system.’"

Two days later, he posted another message of support, tweeting, "President Trump called me last night and I was encouraged to hear his continued resolve to ensure that every LEGAL vote gets properly counted and that all instances of fraud and illegality are investigated and prosecuted. Fair elections are worth fighting for!" 

From there his efforts took a legal turn.

​​In December 2020, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block four battleground states from voting in the Electoral College. Those four states voted for Biden.

Johnson also sent an email to Republican colleagues asking them to join an amicus — or "friend of the court" — brief in support of Paxton’s lawsuit, CNN reported. The email said Trump was "anxiously awaiting the final list" to see who would sign the brief. 

His recruitment was successful. The majority of the conference, 126 Republicans, signed the brief. Johnson tweeted Dec. 10, 2020, that he was "proud to lead" the effort.

Days later, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Paxton’s lawsuit, concluding Texas should have no say in other states’ elections.

Johnson fueled falsehoods about voting machines, Georgia ballots

As Johnson fought to continue the legal battles over the election, he spread voting machine conspiracies. 

In a radio show interview Nov. 17, 2020, Johnson said he was not going to concede that Biden won because Trump and others "know intuitively that there was a lot amiss about this Election Day."

Johnson brought up "allegations about the voting machines, some of them being rigged with this software" by Dominion Voting Systems. 

In the same radio show interview, Johnson said an election software system "came from Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela." We debunked similar conspiracy theories that Chavez’s family owned Dominion Voting Systems. 

Dominion was founded in 2003 in Toronto. In 2018, the company was acquired by Staple Street Capital, a private equity firm based in New York. Dominion sued Fox News for defamation after airing falsehoods about their equipment, leading to an $787.5 million  settlement.

Johnson said there was "a lot of merit" to voting machine conspiracy theories, "and when the president says the election was ‘rigged’ that is what he was talking about; the fix was in."

Johnson called for exhausting "all the legal remedies." The Trump side went on to lose about 60 lawsuits

Johnson supported Trump’s complaints about Georgia. State Attorney Fani Willis indicted Trump and 18 defendants for their efforts to overturn the state’s result for Biden.

"In Georgia, it really was rigged, it was set up for the Biden team to win," he said in the same radio show interview, in part citing the increase of absentee ballots cast by Democrats compared with 2016.

Statements that the 2020 election was rigged or stolen or illegitimate are ridiculous, earning PolitiFact’s Pants on Fire rating. A conspiracy to rig an election would require thousands of people conspiring across multiple jurisdictions in many states to commit felonies. There’s no evidence it happened.

State officials in other battlegrounds including Georgia, Nevada and Arizona have said the election was secure.

Johnson objected to certifying the vote

The Electoral College made Biden’s victory official Dec. 14, 2020; Johnson wasn’t deterred.

He was one of 37 Republicans who announced Jan. 6, before Congress convened, that "we will vote to sustain objections to slates of electors submitted by states we believe clearly violated the Constitution in the presidential election of 2020." 

The New York Times found that Johnson gave his Republican colleagues a path to objecting to certification based on how some state officials loosened restrictions on voting because of the pandemic. It was a more lawyerly argument that separated their objections from the boisterous "stop the steal" rallies.

The lawmakers wrote that they shared concerns by voters that "the election of 2020 became riddled with an unprecedented number of serious allegations of fraud and irregularities." That was the opposite of public statements by federal and state officials, who said the election was secure.

As the process of accepting the votes was under way on Jan. 6, rioters brought the congressional session to a halt. When lawmakers returned after the Capitol was cleared, Johnson stuck to his promise and voted along with the majority of his Republican House colleagues to object to Biden’s wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Johnson also condemned the Capitol attack, calling it "heinous violence". Even though he opposed the subsequent effort to impeach Trump, Johnson acknowledged in a Jan. 13, 2021, statement that Biden was the president-elect.

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird and Staff Writer Samantha Putterman contributed to this report.

RELATED:  All of our fact-checks about elections

RELATED: Our fact-checks of House Speaker Mike Johnson

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Our Sources

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, X, Nov. 7, 2020

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, X, Nov. 9, 2020

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, X, Nov. 17, 2020

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, X, Dec. 10, 2020

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, X and press release, Jan. 6, 2021

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, X, Jan. 13, 2021

Biden-Harris HQ, X, Oct. 25, 2023

ABC’s Rachel Scott, X, Oct. 24, 2023

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, AG Pax­ton Sues Bat­tle­ground States for Uncon­sti­tu­tion­al Changes to 2020 Elec­tion Laws, Dec. 8, 2020

CNN, Trump ally lobbying fellow House Republicans to support Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the election, Dec. 9, 2020

New York Times, They Legitimized the Myth of a Stolen Election — and Reaped the Rewards, Oct. 3, 2022

New York Times, Johnson Played Leading Role in Effort to Overturn 2020 Election, Oct. 25, 2023

New York Times, Rallying Behind Trump, Most House Republicans Joined Failed Lawsuit, Dec. 11, 2020

Politico, ‘I’ve prayed for each of you': How Mike Johnson led a campaign of election denial, Oct. 25, 2023

AP, New US House speaker tried to help overturn the 2020 election, raising concerns about the next one, Oct. 26, 2023

Democracy Docket, Election Denier Rep. Mike Johnson Wins House Speakership After Weeks of Dysfunction, Oct. 25, 2023

Email interview, Edie Guy, spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, Oct. 25, 2023

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