'He's got to pay a price': Tony Evers says Ron Johnson should face penalties for ties to Trump scheme

Molly Beck
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Gov. Tony Evers, left, and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, right

MADISON – Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers wants U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and a group of Republicans who posed as electors in 2020 to "pay a price" for their ties to former President Donald Trump's failed scheme to stay in power.

In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Evers said the Republicans should face penalties that could include charges, fines or losing their jobs for participating in a plan to sign paperwork falsely claiming to be electors for Trump after he lost reelection and trying to hand those documents to then-Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021.

"He was part of the deal. Something should happen to him," Evers said of Johnson. "He knew. He knew. Why in the world would a U.S. Senator involve himself with something that is patently against the law?"

He said he did not think the actions warranted jail time.

Evers over the summer said that he thought the 10 Wisconsin Republicans who posed as electors for Trump should face charges, but his recent comments mark the first time a high-ranking Wisconsin official has said Johnson should be punished for his role in the scheme as well.

More:Here are the ways Ron Johnson, others with Wisconsin ties appear in the Trump Jan. 6 indictment

Johnson coordinated with attorney Jim Troupis, who represented Trump in Wisconsin during the 2020 election, to get the false elector paperwork to Pence on Jan. 6, 2021 — hours before the U.S. Capitol was enveloped by violent riots. Pence refused to accept the documents.

Kenneth Chesebro, a Trump attorney who designed the false elector plot, told Michigan prosecutors in recent weeks Johnson was enlisted "to try to expedite" the documents to Pence, according to CNN.

Johnson has dismissed criticism and said his involvement lasted only "a few seconds." He previously said the state's false electors should not face criminal charges and labeled their actions "political activity."

"My chief of staff spent about an hour contacting people, found out the vice president wasn't accepting anything, and we never delivered them. So, my involvement, literally, my involvement took a few seconds. That's it," he told CBS 58 in December.

On Friday, Johnson accused Evers of "spreading dangerous disinformation in order to divide and mislead the American and Wisconsin public" and attacked the media for reporting the comments.

"Everything that I have said about this non-event has proven to be true," Johnson said in a statement to the Journal Sentinel.

Evers said Wednesday that Johnson should be held accountable for the actions.

"He's got to pay a price. I'm not sure what that price would be," Evers said after being asked whether he meant Johnson should be removed from office or face charges.

The Democratic governor made his comments a month after the settlement of a civil suit against the group of 10 Republicans who signed false elector paperwork. The lawsuit was filed by 2020 electors for President Joe Biden, who met in the state Capitol the same day the Republicans gathered to sign the false documents.

The group of Republicans included Wisconsin Elections Commission member Bob Spindell. Evers also said Spindell should resign.

Wisconsin prosecutors are interviewing Chesebro, according to CNN, but Attorney General Josh Kaul has refused to disclose details of what, if any, investigation is underway into the fake elector scheme.

The fake electors said they held the meeting to ensure the state's electoral votes were cast for Trump if a court later determined he was the true winner of the state. They contend they were "tricked and misled" into participating in the broader elector scheme.

Evers said he believes the Wisconsin Trump electors will eventually be part of a federal probe.

"I think the civil case is not the end," he said. "What they did was break the law in Wisconsin and the civil suit set aside, I think they should be held accountable ... I don't believe they should necessarily be thrown in jail but that is very bad behavior."

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Lawrence Andrea contributed to this report from Washington.

Molly Beck can be reached at molly.beck@jrn.com.