This Week in Public Corruption: Keeping Up with the Johnsons*

9 min readJun 9, 2024


Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

It’s been a busy week in public corruption. My focus today is on Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). But I would be remiss not at least to mention a deeply dishonest and corrupt Supreme Court justice. I won’t keep you guessing. I am referring to “Clearance” Thomas.

The scope and depth of his corruption are coming into clearer focus, thanks to outstanding reporting. As detailed by ProPublica, this week Justice Thomas revised mandatory federal financial disclosures to add certain gifts he had “inadvertently omitted” from previous reports. Of the $5 million in gifts to all Supreme Court justices over the past 20 years, Thomas took $4 million, roughly equivalent to his entire salary as a jurist since he was appointed to the bench. I have written extensively on Justice Thomas’s corruption and won’t address it further for now, except to say that purchasing access and influence is not a crime for the litigant buyer or the jurist seller, so long as the latter is a justice on the Supreme Court. And just like Trump, so long as Justice Thomas gives them what they want, the right doesn’t care how deeply corrupt he is. See Don’t Waste Ink on a Code of Ethics for Justice Thomas; Alito, Thomas, And The False Truism That No One Is Above the Law.

Then there’s Senator Menendez (D-N.J.) whose trial is underway in New York. I’ll wait for the verdict before commenting.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Like a busted drug courier, Senator Ron Johnson claims he had no idea what he was being asked to deliver. Turns out, he was all in on the conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election with false slates of electors, and he knew exactly what he and his staff were trying to hand over to Mike Pence on January 6, 2021.

On June 4, 2024, the Wisconsin attorney general indicted Kenneth Chesebro and others on felony forgery charges. The indictment arises from Wisconsin Republicans’ participation in the fake electors scheme cooked up by John Eastman to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Former Trump aides charged in Wisconsin over 2020 elector plot.

As expected, election denier Senator Ron Johnson, who has downplayed and given inconsistent versions of his efforts to deliver fake electors to the vice president, isn’t happy that his proximity to the attempted delivery is back in the news. He called the charges “outrageous.” “Now Democrats are weaponizing Wisconsin’s judiciary. Apparently conservative lawyers advising clients is illegal under Democrat Tyranny. Democrats are turning America into a banana republic.” Wisconsin attorney general files felony charges against attorneys, aide who worked for Trump in 2020.

I think he was referring to conservative lawyers who are under multiple indictments in various states and have lost their licenses to practice law.

One of those conservative lawyers, John Eastman, is also Unindicted Coconspirator №2 in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s Indictment of Trump (“Jan. 6 Indictment”) for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. (Other conservative lawyers include Unindicted Coconspirator №1 Rudy Giuliani, Unindicted Coconspirator №3 Jeffrey Clark, Unindicted Coconspirator №4 Kenneth Chesebro, and Unindicted Coconspirator №5, Sidney Powell.)

As Coconspirator №2, Eastman “devised and attempted to implement a strategy to leverage the Vice President’s ceremonial role overseeing the certification proceeding to obstruct the certification of the presidential election.”

Eastman’s theories included the claim that the vice president could refuse to count the electoral votes from seven swing states Trump had lost (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) which would give Trump 232 electoral votes to President Biden’s 222. If the Democrats objected because 270 electoral votes were necessary, the election would be sent to the House of Representatives with each state delegation having a single vote. Trump would be declared the winner because Republicans held a slight edge.

As an alternative to the vice president’s refusal to count the electoral votes from seven swing states, Eastman, Giuliani, Trump, and Chesebro, among others, worked to replace the slates of certified electors in seven swing states President Biden won. Eastman and others pressured state legislators “to name their own electors or to certify the campaign’s fake electors” — there were seven fake slates, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If the president of the senate or senate president pro tempore recognized the alternate slates of electors, the result would be to throw out the electoral votes from those states thereby reducing Biden’s count below Trump’s or delay certifying Biden as the winner of the 2020 election and buy more time. Tortured theories.

Eastman knew there were no valid alternate slates of electors but advised Pence and Trump that the existence of the dual slates “demonstrates the uncertainty of either. This should be enough.” In other words, they could induce Republican leadership in the seven swing states Trump had lost to create fake slates of electors and then, in a self-fulfilling prophesy, claim the outcome in those states was unclear due to the dueling slates. Tortured theories. See Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and AG Sean Reyes (R-UT), Meet Disbarred Attorney John Eastman (Oh, I’m Sorry. . . I See You’ve Already Met).

As for the new indictment in Wisconsin, Senator Ron Johnson “has reason to sweat this one, because the criminal case is likely to bring renewed attention to his role in the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election and his shifting and inconsistent explanations. On Jan. 6, 2021, Johnson and his staff tried to hand fake electoral certificates to Vice President Mike Pence, but they were rebuffed. Johnson initially claimed he didn’t know about the plot, but recent documents — including text messages — show that Johnson and his staff were told explicitly about the plot to deliver the fake electoral votes.” Sen. Ron Johnson’s claim he knew nothing about a fake electors plot isn’t believable (emphasis added),

“The newly released records include communications from Jim Troupis, who was Trump’s lawyer in Wisconsin during the 2020 recount and subsequent effort to throw out more than 200,000 absentee votes from Milwaukee and Dane counties.

“Previous document dumps, including those from the House Jan. 6 committee, indicated Johnson had pushed for the state Legislature to get involved and pick the state’s electors. Those records also indicated Johnson connected Troupis to his staff.

“This week’s records release shows a text from Troupis directly to Johnson on the morning of January 6.

“‘We need to get a document on the Wisconsin electors to you for the VP immediately,’ Troupis texted Johnson. . . .

“Six minutes later, Johnson initiated a group text with Troupis and his chief of staff, Sean Riley.

“‘Jim Troupis, meet Sean Reilly [sic],’ Johnson wrote.

“About one hour after that, Johnson notified Troupis, ‘We have been informed the VP cannot accept any unsealed mail and I cannot hand it to him.’”

New documents show Ron Johnson’s office was told Jan. 6 documents were about fake electors (emphasis added).

Conspiracy is its own crime. One can be convicted of conspiracy without being convicted of the underlying crime that is the “object of the conspiracy” — the purpose the partnership formed which is usually to violate some underlying criminal law. Conspiracy creates criminal exposure to members of the conspiracy even if the underlying crime was unsuccessful, incomplete, abandoned, or foiled. Conspiracy also creates criminal exposure to members of the conspiracy whose participation may not rise to the level of having committed the underlying crime itself even if other members of the conspiracy committed the underlying crime.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA)

This week House Speaker Mike Johnson appointed two “fierce Trump loyalists” to the House Intelligence Committee, former White House physician under Trump Ronny Jackson (R-TX) and Scott Perry (R-PA), the only congressperson whose cellphone was seized by the FBI pursuant to a warrant in the wake of Jan. 6. I will discuss Ronny Jackson on another day.

Perry’s seat on the House Intelligence Committee is analogous to gaining access to and trading on insider information, which congresspeople regularly do as a fraud on unwitting investors. Perry will have access to highly sensitive, confidential information on which he can trade for his personal benefit and the political gain of convicted felon Trump and of the House Freedom Caucus which he formerly chaired.

You may recall Perry unsuccessfully sought a presidential pardon from Trump.

The Jan. 6 House Select Committee invited several House members to cooperate with the Jan. 6 investigation. They included Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Scott Perry. The first letter asking for cooperation went to Perry on December 20, 2021. The letter said:

“[W]e are examining issues relating to an effort by former President Trump and others to install Mr. Jeffrey Clark in the days before January 6, 2021, as acting Attorney General of the United States. In the weeks before January 6th, then-President Trump’s appointees at the Justice Department informed the President repeatedly that his claims of election fraud were not supported by the evidence, and that the election was not, in fact, stolen. Then-President Trump considered appointing Jeffrey Clark as acting Attorney General, as Mr. Clark pressed his Department of Justice superiors to use agency authorities to challenge the election results. . . .

“We have received evidence from multiple witnesses that you had an important role in the efforts to install Mr. Clark as acting Attorney General. Acting Attorney General Rosen and acting Deputy Attorney General Donoghue have provided evidence regarding these issues, and we have received evidence that others who worked with Mr. Clark were aware of these plans. We are also aware that you had multiple text and other communications with President Trump’s former Chief of Staff regarding Mr. Clark — and we also have evidence indicating that in that time frame you sent communications to the former Chief of Staff using the encrypted Signal app. Mr. Clark has informed us that he plans to invoke his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in anticipation of a deposition to be conducted by the Committee. When Mr. Clark decided to invoke his 5th Amendment rights, he understood that we planned to pose questions addressing his interactions with you, among a host of other topics.

“In addition, we have information indicating that you communicated at various relevant times with the White House and others involved in other relevant topics, including regarding allegations that the Dominion voting machines had been corrupted.”

Select Committee’s December 20, 2021 Letter to Scott Perry.

As with all these congressional clowns, Perry refused.

As Heather Cox Richardson explains in her June 5, 2024 Letters from an American, the appointments give “them oversight of the entire U.S. intelligence community and access to the nation’s most sensitive foreign intelligence. The Intelligence community includes intelligence from the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Space Force, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Department, the State Department, the Department of Energy (which oversees information about nuclear weapons), the Treasury Department, and the Department of Homeland Security.”

“It also oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and that oversight is likely a key reason Johnson put Jackson and Perry on the committee. . . .

“Perry is more problematic than Jackson. Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol that Perry played an important role in the plan to keep Trump in office after he lost the 2020 presidential election. She told podcast host Scott Lamar in October 2023 that Perry was ‘central to the planning of January 6,’ and she has said repeatedly that Perry asked Trump for a pardon before he left office.

“Federal authorities from the FBI seized Perry’s cell phone in 2022 as part of their investigation into the effort to seize the presidency; he is the only member of Congress whose cell phone was seized. Like Trump, who has attacked the FBI since then-director James Comey refused to drop the investigation into the connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian operatives, Perry has complained bitterly about the FBI’s investigation of him.

“Now, Perry will be on the committee that oversees the FBI. In a statement, he said: ‘I look forward to providing not only a fresh perspective, but conducting actual oversight — not blind obedience to some facets of our Intel Community that all too often abuse their powers, resources, and authority to spy on the American People.

“Former director of the CIA General Michael Hayden wrote: ‘That’s unbelievable. Both of them. Intelligence Committee? God help us.’”

R.VanWagoner publishes.

*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to Rob’s second novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming, and Norway, dropped on November 17, 2020. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Bookstore and your favorite local bookshop, this novel, The Contortionists, which Rob himself narrates for the audio version, is a psychological page-turner about a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community. I have read the novel and listened to the audio version twice. It is a literary masterpiece. The Contortionists is not, however, for the faint of heart.




Exercising my right not to remain silent. Criminal defense and First Amendment attorney.