The rise of a congressional backbencher to speaker of the House and the release of former Rep. Liz Cheney’s new book “Oath and Honor” reveal an intersection of events three years ago that threatened our democracy.
In December 2020 a little-known congressman and Trump ally from Louisiana, Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, was touting questionable constitutional law credentials while peddling snake oil to his House colleagues on alleged voter fraud.
Johnson tried to persuade his House colleagues to add their names to an amicus brief, a legal document filed by someone not directly involved in the case, in support of a dubious Texas lawsuit aimed at overturning the 2020 presidential election results in four swing states – Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Johnson quickly rounded up 106 signatures from his MAGA colleagues for a seriously flawed brief he did not author. He was fronting for Trump lawyers. Johnson pressured his colleagues to sign on by circulating word that Trump was taking names. Fearing retribution, 20 more joined the brief, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
It’s worth looking at some Trump enablers hiding behind that amicus brief to appreciate the real-time threats to our democracy.
On October 25, 2023, Rep. Mike Johnson walked into the Speaker’s chair with the full-throated support for Donald Trump. Trump was returning the favor for Johnson’s last-ditch efforts in December 2020 to throw the election to Trump — using that amicus brief.
All 61 court challenges to overturn the election had failed, but this long-shot, Hail Mary to the Supreme Court gave House members a chance to declare allegiance to Trump despite the questionable nature of the lawsuit.
One-hundred-twenty-six members of the Republican House Conference out of 222 signed the brief. Idaho Reps. Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher were signers.
On December 10, 2020, Fulcher took to Facebook to raise fears, without evidence, there was widespread fraud in the elections.
His limp defense of his amicus brief support was intended for job protection rather than to impart accurate information. This Facebook substitute for a news conference, thereby dodging piercing questions, was one more nail in the coffin of our democracy. He offered right-wing talking points of mass election fraud to justify his Trump appeasement.
Simpson quietly signed on without taking the mendacious route proffered by Fulcher.
Not to be outdone by his Republican congressmen, Gov. Brad Little and a swarm of Idaho legislators supported the Texas lawsuit that Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden courageously refused to support.
This failed amicus brief was concocted to create momentum for the lie that Joe Biden was unlawfully elected. Ironically, the amicus brief was a fraud intended to disclose a fraud. It was a monumental faceplant.
But the lie lives on.
So, why would two non-lawyer Idaho congressmen reject the legal opinion of their GOP attorney general? Why would an Idaho governor and Idaho legislature members move in unison to support a frivolous political act the US Supreme Court immediately dispatched?
Why would they all ignore the decisions in more than 60 court cases that showed integrity was intact at all levels of the election system?
These questions need answers. Their actions were those of enablers who chose to act against our established democratic norms and constitutional safeguards.
Their actions were those of election deniers embracing conspiracy theories and peddling fear in the face of factual evidence to the contrary.
Cheney’s book lays bare the cowardly behavior of these Trump enablers who have their foot on the anti-democracy accelerator.
They avoided the hard work of factual discovery and chose the easy path as if they were cultists in thrall to a false idol. And then gaslit us.
Cheney remains a public servant without the title. She may no longer serve in Congress, but her integrity and love of country remain intact.
The wheels of justice can move quickly like the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the flawed amicus brief. Or justice can move with glacial speed through the court system to cast judgment on the Trump enablers who would lead us to authoritarian rule.
Cheney points out that Trump needed others to support his insurrection fervor. As the minutes and days pass, we now see more clearly who assisted him, in big and little ways.
In December 2020 too many Idaho politicians let us down.
Larry LaRocco represented Idaho’s First Congressional District as a Democrat in the U.S. House from 1991-1995.