Fox News interviewed a shaken but unapologetic Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) live from an undisclosed secure location in the House complex as a violent mob of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, delaying the certification of the 2020 presidential election. During the interview, Johnson, whom the House Republican caucus elected its speaker-designate on Tuesday night, defended his effort to toss the results in multiple states as “presenting our thoughtful arguments and thoughts about this whole process.”
Johnson, who made 50 appearances on weekday Fox programs (14 in prime time) between August 2017 and his run for speaker, came to prominence for his key role in Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. He “led the amicus brief signed by more than 100 House Republicans in support of a Texas lawsuit seeking to invalidate the 2020 election results in four swing states won by Biden: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.” Johnson drummed up signatures for that brief in part by telling his colleagues that Trump had personally asked him to request members sign it. The lawsuit, which was heavily touted by pro-Trump media outlets like Fox, was ultimately rejected unanimously by the U.S. Supreme Court.
After Trump’s efforts to reverse the 2020 election through legal action failed, he and his associates sought to have Congress and Vice President Mike Pence throw out the electoral votes of key states on January 6, 2021. He also summoned thousands of supporters to Washington, D.C.
Johnson expressed solidarity with the protestors that morning and promised to take their efforts to Congress later in the day. “We MUST fight for election integrity, the Constitution, and the preservation of our republic! It will be my honor to help lead that fight in the Congress today,” he posted on social media.
Then in a speech outside the White House, Trump urged the crowd to march on the U.S. Capitol, where the joint session had assembled to certify the results. They did, assaulting scores of law enforcement officers, breaching the building, and sending members of Congress into hiding.
Fox’s Bill Hemmer spoke with Johnson by phone as the mob occupied the Capitol, shortly after 3 p.m. ET. Johnson would not identify his location, saying only that he was “with a number of members, House members” in a “secure location.”
“Well, I was in the middle of the proceedings in the House chamber down at the table. We were presenting our thoughtful arguments and thoughts about this whole process, the Electoral College, as you mentioned,” Johnson explained. “It’s a very important process for our nation. Happens every four years. And we’re going through the methodical steps. This is nothing unusual what was happening today. There have been many objections over the years. You know, we’re going through the process, and then they begin the lockdown. There’s chaos on the floor, and members get a bit alarmed. And we get multiple orders by the Capitol Police and ultimately they evacuate the chamber. It’s just a really, really sad thing.”
Hemmer then asked Johnson, “Our nation’s capitol gets massive rallies every year, all the time. How did this happen?”
“You know, it’s a great question,” he said. “The whole nation is a tinderbox right now of emotion, you know, of vitriol.”
Johnson did not blame Trump or Republican members like himself for causing that vitriol with false claims of election fraud. Instead, he said, “I’m here as one of the advocates on the Republican side, stating our concerns about this election, the allegations of fraud and the irregularity and all that.”
He continued, “But I don’t see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle making the other argument as an enemy.” He argued that the public needs to remember “the things that unite us” and that “we’re all one family in this country. And if we forget that, we lose that value, our republic is in peril.”
Johnson went on to explain that the members with him were feeling “a lot of sadness.”
“We feel like we’ve crossed a Rubicon in some way,” he said. “It’s bigger than our politics; it’s the culture itself. And we got to get back, again, to those things that unite us. If we don’t, we’re in trouble.”
Hemmer then mentioned that after a long silence while the crowd stormed the building, Trump had posted on social media that the crowd should “stay peaceful.” He asked Johnson, “Does he need to say more?”
“That’s a good start,” Johnson replied. “But I do believe, you know, I’m a supporter of the president. But this is a time for the commander-in-chief, the leader of the country — he still is that — to step up and call for calm.”
“We have to get back to basics,” Johnson concluded. “And I hope in the days and weeks, months to come — no matter the outcome of this presidential election, or any political outcome — that we can get back to these foundational ideals. Because if we don’t, again, you know, we’re going to see a lot more of this in the days ahead.”
At a news conference Tuesday night after Johnson became the fourth speaker-designate selected by his peers since a handful of Republicans ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this month, a reporter tried to ask him about his role in seeking to overturn the 2020 election. Other members of the caucus shouted her down as Johnson smirked, shook his head, and said, “Next question.”