Sen. Ron Johnson recently made two payments to a law firm led by a Wisconsin attorney embroiled in the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 probe, tapping the firm in part to assist in a possible recount, according to financial disclosures filed Friday.
Johnson, R-Wis., made the payments to the law firm led by James Troupis, who allegedly played a role in a plan to reverse the 2020 election results through the use of “fake electors” that’s now under scrutiny by the federal government. Troupis, a lawyer for Donald Trump’s campaign, led Trump’s unsuccessful recount efforts in Wisconsin.
The disclosure comes as the senator’s public explanations about whether he had a role in that plan — including what he has said about his interactions with Troupis in the hours before the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 — are drawing scrutiny.
Johnson, locked in one of the closest Senate races in the nation against Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, has paid a little over $20,000 in recent months to the Troupis Law Office in Cross Plains, Wisc., according to new financial disclosures filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Troupis is the firm’s principal.
On July 26, 2022, Johnson’s campaign paid $13,287 to Troupis Law for “legal consulting.” On Aug. 18, it paid $7,000 for what’s listed on his financial records as “Recount: Legal Consulting.” Financial records suggest that the only other financial interactions between Troupis and Johnson came in 2010, when Troupis donated $1,000 to Johnson’s campaign fund.
While campaigns sometimes prepare for different Election Day voting scenarios, Johnson’s payment for legal consulting on a possible recount to an outside law firm could be a sign the senator is expecting the kind of dead-heat contest the battleground state is known for. Johnson has not said whether he would accept the results of the Nov. 8 election. Previous financial disclosures did not indicate prior payments to the Troupis firm. The records show he made regular payments, totaling at least $30,000 in payments this year, to another law firm, Wiley Rein, for legal consulting.
A message left with a law firm representing Troupis was not immediately returned Monday, nor was a phone message to the number Troupis listed on the recount forms he filed on behalf of Trump in 2020. Other numbers publicly listed for Troupis Law Office appear disconnected or are inoperable.
Phone, email and text messages left with Johnson’s campaign were not immediately returned.
Earlier this year, Troupis was among the attorneys and Trump representatives named in government subpoenas that the FBI served to some of the fake electors in June, according to a source with direct knowledge of the investigation. The Washington Post also reported, citing documents that were released as a part of a public records request, that two Arizona state lawmakers had received subpoenas for any communications they might have had with various Trump attorneys and representatives, including Troupis, “relating to any effort, plan, or attempt to serve as an Elector.” The Washington Post also reported that around the same time — mid-June — multiple people in other states were served subpoenas as part of the fake electors investigation.
The alleged scheme had slates of Republicans send forms to Washington attesting Trump won the 2020 election, despite his election loss in their states.
Johnson’s previous financial disclosures also reveal that during his 2022 campaign, he received $8,700 in donations from another Trump attorney, Kenneth Chesebro, who is accused in a Wisconsin civil lawsuit of playing a central role in orchestrating the false electors effort. Chesebro, a New York-based lawyer, has also been subpoenaed by a Fulton County, Ga. grand jury investigating alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. A coalition of lawyers that form the advocacy group Lawyers Defending American Democracy has also recently asked New York attorney regulators to investigate Chesebro, calling him the “mastermind” behind the false electors plot and violating New York ethics rules in the process.
In February, The New York Times published a Nov. 18, 2020, memo from Chesebro addressed to Troupis, laying out the elector strategy, which is also cited in the Wisconsin civil lawsuit that names Troupis and Chesebro as defendants.
Chesebro did not respond to a request for comment. An attorney for Chesebro, Adam S. Kaufmann, previously told the The Times that Chesebro was offering a contingency plan to the Trump campaign if a court found evidence of fraud in battleground states where Trump was disputing the outcomes.
On May 11, Chesebro donated $5,800 to Johnson’s campaign, the maximum amount an individual can contribute during the primary, under FEC rules. On May 16, he donated another $2,900, which was credited to the general election.
Both Troupis and Chesebro were named in a May lawsuit in Wisconsin that alleges the two were key players in the broader scheme to reverse Biden’s victory that included gathering 10 “phony electors” to falsely attested that Trump was Wisconsin’s rightful winner. That lawsuit alleges that Troupis was a link between the Trump campaign and the fake electors.
The House committee investigating the riot first made public communications between Johnson’s office and an aide to then-Vice President Mike Pence. In June, the panel released text messages between a top Johnson aide and an aide to Pence about passing along slates of electors from Wisconsin and Michigan. The Pence aide rebuffed Johnson’s office, according to the texts.
The first payment to the Troupis firm for legal consulting documented in the financial disclosures came a month after Johnson acknowledged he personally texted with Troupis on Jan. 6, 2021, about passing along information involving what Troupis said was “Wisconsin electors” to Pence.
Johnson has denied knowing anything about the fake elector scheme and as recently as earlier this month has appeared to distance himself from Troupis.
“What would you do if you got a text from the attorney for the president of the United States?” Johnson said at a recent event in Milwaukee. “You respond to it.”
According to testimony and documents obtained by the Jan. 6 Select Committee, the fake electors scheme sought to undermine Biden’s 2020 presidential victory by passing to Pence slates of electors in battleground states who purported Trump was the rightful winner.
The scheme failed, however, with Pence recognizing Biden’s victory.