U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson knows President-elect Joe Biden won the election but refuses to publicly admit it, instead casting doubt on the election’s integrity because the country is “strong enough to withstand what is going on,” according to a former Brown County GOP chairperson who spoke privately with Johnson.
The former GOP official and Brown County supervisor, Mark Becker, wrote in The Bulwark that Johnson “knew and accepted” Biden won, but feared calling out Trump’s falsehoods. The Bulwark is a conservative, anti-Trump online publication launched in 2018 by former Milwaukee radio host Charlie Sykes.
“Senator Johnson knows that Joe Biden won a free and fair election,” Becker said. “He is refusing to admit it publicly and stoking conspiracies that undermine our democracy solely because it would be ‘political suicide’ to oppose Trump. I find this unconscionable.”
Becker initiated the call, which he said happened on Nov. 14. Johnson, R-Oshkosh, has so far refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory. Most recently, in response to statements by Republican U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election, Johnson said Barr should “show everybody” his evidence because “there’s enough suspicions” and “irregularities.”
Gov. Tony Evers certified the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s determination that Biden won the state by more than 20,600 votes. But the Trump campaign and other Trump allies have filed several lawsuits in state and federal court seeking to throw out the result with baseless claims of fraud and far-fetched legal arguments seeking to change the election result.
In a statement, Johnson didn’t deny what Becker had shared of their conversation, but defended his refusal to acknowledge the outcome of the election.
“I have been very consistent in both public and private statements that I believe there are way too many irregularities and suspect issues that need to be fully investigated and publicly vetted before a final result is determined and a peaceful transition of power takes place,” Johnson said. “The article should be viewed as the political hit piece it is, and simply ignored.”
Becker said he asked Johnson why he wouldn’t admit publicly Biden’s victory, something he said Johnson believed privately, at a time when Trump continues to stoke unfounded fears about the integrity of the nation’s democracy.
“Senator Johnson replied that the institutions of our democracy are strong enough to withstand what is going on,” Becker said. “This response shocked me, since it suggested that the truth was ultimately unimportant and that Sen. Johnson viewed what the president was doing as someone else’s problem.”
Becker said he didn’t initially want to take the private conversation with Johnson public, but did so because he thought it was the only way to take the moral high ground.
“I didn’t want all this. But I tell my son who is 7 — and he’s just starting to understand some of this stuff — I tell him that if someone is a bully, you stand up to bullies,” Becker said, referring to Trump and Johnson. “Because you stand up for what’s right.”
He said he believes the Republican Party is on the wrong track. He believes Wisconsin and the country firmly rejected Trump and his political style but that Republicans refuse to acknowledge it.
“Instead of … figuring out what’s wrong with the (Trump and GOP) message, what they’re doing is instead they’re doubling down on everything that was just rejected,” Becker said.
According to Becker, Johnson said that despite the fact Biden won, he is “the worst candidate for president in the history of the country” and attributed the win to “the hatred” for Trump advanced by the media. Becker said Johnson criticized Trump’s personality, but praised him for his handling of a number of issues, from China to the economy.
Becker said the conversation with Johnson was unlike the media interviews he typically gives, and that Johnson even went so far as to criticize Wisconsin Republicans for not working more closely with the Evers administration to address the COVID-19 crisis.
Johnson is up for re-election in 2022. He has left open the possibility of running for a third term despite saying before the 2016 election he would step down at the end of a second term.