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Johnson campaign hires former Trump attorney who sought to throw out 220K ballots in 2020

Federal filings show $20K in payments to firm headed by Jim Troupis, who along with Johnson, is tied to fake electors

Trump campaign attorney James Troupis
Trump campaign attorney James Troupis speaks during a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to discuss election security and the 2020 election process on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP Photos

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s campaign has paid more than $20,000 to a Wisconsin law firm that assisted former President Donald Trump’s campaign attempt to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results. The firm’s principal, Jim Troupis, has also been implicated along with Johnson in Trump’s scheme to send fake electors to the U.S. Capitol.

It’s a sign the senator may be gearing up for a potential legal battle should his reelection campaign come down to a recount.

UW-Madison Political Science professor and director of the Elections Research Center, Barry Burden told Wisconsin Public Radio it’s not unusual for high profile campaigns to bring on legal counsel to prepare for such a possibility. But he said it’s notable Johnson picked an attorney who was involved with 2020 lawsuits, “some of which had a frivolous aspects to them.”

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“Jim Troupis is a well-established attorney,” Burden said. “He’s been involved with elections in Wisconsin well before Trump was on the scene. But he is connected to this movement and he did have some role in trying to forward the names of fake electors through Sen. Ron Johnson’s office. … That makes him an unusual person among the attorneys campaigns normally pick up to help with recounts and other legal issues.”

Federal Election Commission filings show Johnson’s campaign retained Troupis Law Office of Cross Plains for legal consulting in July and consultation on a potential recount in August. The campaign paid a total of $20,287.50 to the firm.

Troupis is a longtime GOP lawyer in Wisconsin who was at the forefront of a Trump campaign lawsuit in Dec. 2020 that sought to overturn the state’s presidential election results that year by throwing out more than 220,000 absentee ballots cast in Dane and Milwaukee counties.

The lawsuit alleged, among other things, that the Wisconsin Elections Commission violated state law by offering guidance recommending clerks correct incomplete witness addresses on absentee ballot envelopes when they could verify the correct information. That guidance had been in place since 2016. The Wisconsin Supreme Court denied the challenge because it was filed after the 2020 election.

Last month, a Waukesha County Judge ruled clerks are not allowed to fill in the missing witness address information. That ruling has been appealed. Another lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin League of Women Voters aims to allow clerks to accept ballots with incomplete witness information.

Troupis and Johnson have also been implicated in a Trump campaign scheme to deliver slates of fake electoral ballots from Wisconsin and Michigan to former Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, the day Trump supporters led an insurrection aimed at stopping certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.

A Nov. 18, 2020 memo sent by Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro to Troupis outlined the “alternate elector” strategy to have Republicans cast ballots on Dec. 14, 2020 in hopes of contesting election results. FEC records show Chesebro donated $5,800 to Johnson’s campaign in May.

During a June hearing of congressional committee investigating the insurrection, members highlighted text messages sent by Johnson’s former chief of staff Sean Riley to Pence aide Chris Hodgson that stated “Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS” before electoral ballots were certified. When asked what it was, Riley responded “Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them.” Hodgson told Riley, “Do not give that to him.”

Johnson has downplayed his role in the fake electors scheme, claiming that his involvement was limited to introducing Troupis to his chief of staff via text messages. He has also claimed he didn’t know what the Trump campaign wanted delivered to Pence that day.

Troupis has represented numerous Republican clients and conservative causes prior to his work with the Trump campaign. In 2011, he represented former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser amid a statewide recount.

David Becker, executive director and founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, told WPR he couldn’t comment directly on the Johnson campaign’s hiring of Troupis. But he said both Republican and Democratic candidates in tight elections “have lined up attorneys” ahead of Nov. 8.

“It’s actually prudent if you are thinking about it,” said Becker. “If there’s going to be a very, very close election, you want to be ready to make sure that you’re prepared to argue your case in court under the process that was established before the election.”

Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes’ campaign quickly criticized Johnson’s decision to retain Troupis and said “Johnson has refused to commit to accepting the results of this election” in a press release on Monday.

Johnson’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this story, nor did an attorney representing Troupis in a lawsuit filed by Democrats over the fake elector scheme.