But Johnson forges ahead with his fraudulent attempt to undermine the election — and the credibility of elections in the United States generally.
Though passively admitting “the conclusion has collectively been reached” that any fraud was too small to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s win, Johnson then spent nearly four hours in a hearing Wednesday trying to suggest otherwise.
“There was fraud in this election,” Johnson said. “I don’t have any doubt about that.” He went on at length about alleged “irregularities,” including “violations of election laws,” “fraudulent votes and ballot stuffing,” and “corruption of voting machines and software.” He insisted that “many of these irregularities raise legitimate concerns.”
Johnson, you may recall, used his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee last month to promote the long-discredited quackery that hydroxychloroquine cures the coronavirus. He used Wednesday’s hearing, mercifully his last as chairman, to mention “the Russian collusion hoax,” “censorship” of conservatives, “financial entanglements of the Biden family,” Hillary Clinton and the Steele dossier.
Other Republicans on the panel echoed the election-fraud alarm.
“The election in many ways was stolen,” announced Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said his constituents think the election outcome is no “different than what Maduro is doing” in Venezuela’s dictatorship. (Trump won Florida.)
Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) said his constituents felt “disenfranchised” and that “the election had been rigged.” (Trump won Missouri.)
Johnson, though, lost all restraint. He accused the ranking Democrat, Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.), of leaking “a false intelligence product” about his attacks on Hunter Biden echoing Russian disinformation.
When Peters tried to respond, Johnson interrupted: “You lied! … Outright lie! … I told you to stop lying!”
Peters replied, civilly, “Mr. Chairman, this is not about airing your grievances. I don't know what rabbit hole you're running down.”
Johnson gaveled down his colleague.
Perhaps it was inevitable things would come to this. The Trump presidency began with “alternative facts.” It’s ending with Trump aide Stephen Miller fantasizing about “alternate" electors replacing the real ones. And Trump’s congressional cheerleaders have taken up residence in an alternate reality.
Johnson kept announcing that his attempt to discredit democracy is perfectly healthy for democracy. “I don’t see anything dangerous about evaluating information,” he said. “Nothing dangerous about that, whatsoever.” And: “This is not a dangerous hearing; this is an incredibly important and crucial hearing.” And: “This hearing is not dangerous. What would be dangerous is not discussing this.”
Protest too much?
Christopher Krebs, the former head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — whom Trump sacked after the Department of Homeland Security called this election “the most secure in American history” — urged his fellow Republicans to stop the disinformation, which has led to death threats against him and elections officials around the country.
“This is not the America I recognize, and it’s got to stop,” he testified. “I would appreciate more support from my own party, the Republican Party, to call this stuff out and end it.”
If that weren’t clear enough, Krebs added this: “Democracy in general is fragile. … If a party fails to participate in the process and instead undermines the process, we risk losing that democracy.”
But Johnson kept undermining.
He had Ken Starr there to pronounce a “clear violation of the law.”
He had Francis Ryan, a Trump ally from Pennsylvania, there to call the election “fraught with inconsistencies and irregularities,” the safeguards “underminded” (sic).
Johnson had James Troupis, a Trump lawyer in his Wisconsin case, testify about votes “clearly invalid under the law.”
Asked Johnson: “Biden won our state by about 20,000 votes?”
“Correct,” Troupis replied.
Asked Johnson: “And you’re talking about over 200,000 … if the law would have been followed, probably shouldn’t have been counted?”
“Correct,” Troupis replied.
Johnson also had in Jesse Binnall, a lawyer for Trump in Nevada, who gesticulated madly and alleged that 1,500 dead people and 4,000 non-citizens voted, part of “130,000 unique instances of voter fraud.”
Johnson asked Binnall to explain why the Nevada Supreme Court rejected his claims. “They never took a good, hard list (sic) at the hard evidence,” the lawyer complained.
Or maybe he had no case?
The Republicans displayed a distinct lack of self-awareness as they wondered aloud why most Trump voters believe there was fraud. “We have a problem, a very serious problem,” Johnson said. “We have to work together to fix it, to restore the confidence.”
Shorter version: You’ll have to clean up this mess I made.