Mike Johnson (R-La.) has served Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2017 and was elected the 56th speaker of the House on Oct. 25, 2023, after three weeks of Republican infighting left the chamber paralyzed, without an official leader. A Trump loyalist, he voted against.certifying President Biden’s win of the 2020 presidential election and is considered “the most important architect of the Electoral College objections” in Congress.
Johnson was elected vice chair of the House Republican Conference in 2021 and again in 2022, which quickly made him the fifth most powerful leader in the House even though he held no committee leadership positions. He also served as assistant whip, helping to “fight for core conservative principles… and implement the Republican agenda.”
Although Johnson isn’t a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, he has won reelection twice (though unopposed in 2022) with both the group’s and Trump’s endorsement.
After the 2020 presidential election, Johnson gained favor with GOP leaders by going out on a limb for Trump. “On the eve of the Jan. 6 votes, he presented colleagues with what he called a ‘third option,’” according to The New York Times. Instead of amplifying more outlandish claims of a stolen election, “he faulted the way some states had changed voting procedures during the pandemic, saying it was unconstitutional.” Roughly three-quarters of the 147 GOP members of Congress who voted against certification cited his argument, which became “a Trojan horse that allowed lawmakers to vote with the president while hiding behind a more defensible case.”
Before entering politics, Johnson worked as a lawyer in private practice — for a time as an attorney for the anti-LGBTQ hate-group Alliance Defending Freedom — and was a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Earlier in his congressional career, he served as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, considered “the intellectual arsenal of conservatism in the House,” as he describes it on his congressional website. In 2019, during a House hearing on reparations, Johnson was booed multiple times for claiming that “monetary reparations from current taxpayers for the sins of Americans from many years ago” would be unjust and “almost certainly… unconstitutional.”
January 6, 2021
- On the evening of Jan. 5, Johnson presented House Republicans with his own legal theory to support claims of a stolen election, laying the blame on states where changes to voting procedures purportedly violated the constitution. Colleagues found his arguments persuasive since they could be used “to oppose the will of the voters without embracing conspiracy theories and the lies of widespread fraud pushed by Mr. Trump,” as The New York Times reported.
- On the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, Johnson tweeted: “We MUST fight for election integrity, the Constitution, and the preservation of our republic! It will be my honor to help lead that fight in the Congress today.”
- That night, just hours after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Johnson led the battle cry in the “fight” as he and 146 other congressional Republicans refused to certify Biden’s win of the 2020 presidential election. In justifying their votes against certification, “three-quarters [of House Republicans] relied on [his] arguments.”
- Johnson voted against impeaching Trump for his role in inciting the mob that took a more rowdy approach to doing what he and his GOP colleagues did that day, too—disrupt congressional certification of the presidential election. (During Trump’s first impeachment, the congressman had defended the president “on television so energetically” that he was invited to join his defense team.)
- Johnson voted against establishing a House committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack.
- He later dismissed the Jan. 6 hearings as “political theater,” asserting that Democrats want to “change the narrative concerning the disastrous results of their 17 months of unilateral control of Washington. However, no amount of Hollywood-style production is going to distract the American people from the real issues that are causing them so much pain.”
- In June 2022, Johnson spoke on the House floor to say that most Americans have “moved on” and are no longer interested in hearing about the Jan. 6 insurrection (a claim that prompted a searing rebuttal from the Louisiana Voice, among others).
The Big Lie
- On Nov. 7, 2020, Johnson called Trump and urged him to keep making baseless claims of election fraud, tweeting that he said: “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.”
- On Dec. 10, 2020, Johnson drafted and pushed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the results of the presidential election in four swing states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. He wrote the brief and was its lead booster in the House, convincing more than 60% of House Republicans to sign it.
- Just prior to voting against certifying Biden’s Electoral College win, Johnson released a statement signed by 37 GOP House members saying, in part, that “since we are convinced the election laws in certain states were changed in an unconstitutional manner, the slates of electors produced under those modified laws are thus unconstitutional, not ‘regularly given’ or ‘lawfully certified’ as required by the Electoral Count Act of 1887….”
- Johnson’s strategy of citing the Constitution as a politically “safe” way to object to certifying the election results has also proven to be incredibly profitable. “Republican partisans have rewarded objectors with grass-roots support, paths to higher office and campaign money,” as The New York Times points out. “Corporate backers have reopened their coffers to lawmakers they once denounced as threats to democracy. And almost all the objectors seeking re-election are now poised to return to Congress” in 2023.
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