Joker: House Speaker Mike Johnson (LA): Trump Vassal & Election Denier, Wrapped Tightly in a Christian Nationalist Flag

“Johnson was also integral to Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, . . . and touted Trump’s conspiracy theories about election fraud.”

“The newly elected House speaker has ties to the far-right New Apostolic Reformation — which is hell-bent on turning America into a religious state.” 

Outside his district office in the Cannon House Office Building is a flag white which “symbolize[s] a die-hard vision of a hegemonically Christian America.

 

[Excerpt:]

Republican allies of former President Trump are taking to the airwaves to boost his attacks on the justice system and condemn those who say people should respect the justice system that delivered his guilty verdict in the New York hush money trial.

The GOP has long billed itself as the “law and order” party, one that has promoted the justice system and urged the need to respect the rule of law.

But as Trump blasted the verdict as the result of a “rigged, disgraceful trial,” his allies in Congress likewise railed against it.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) called the case a “weaponization of our justice system,” while possible vice presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said it was a “complete travesty that makes a mockery of our justice system.”

Other Republicans who have broken with Trump criticized their party for betraying what they see as its fundamentals.

“Watching my party — the party of law and order — absolutely turn their guns against the jury, against the judge, against the system. And it’s not just like crazy people. It’s people like Marco Rubio and [Sen.] Lindsey Graham [S.C.]. This party has lost all ability to think for itself,” Adam Kinzinger, a former representative from Illinois who served on the Jan. 6 committee, said during an appearance on CNN Friday morning. 

Speaker Johnson arrives to back up Trump
BY NIALL STANAGE05/14/24 https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/4663941-trump-lawyers-vs-michael-cohen-five-takeaways/

Trump has been accompanied to court by an expanding entourage in recent days, including prominent elected officials such as Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.) and JD Vance (Ohio).

On Tuesday, a fresh stir was created when Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) turned up to show support.

Johnson addressed the media outside the courthouse, calling the trial a “sham.” He also lambasted Cohen as a man bent on “personal revenge.”

More broadly, Johnson endorsed Trump’s view of the trial as a politicized effort by Democrats to hobble President Biden’s opponent in November’s election.

In some ways, none of this is surprising. The GOP has been largely remade in Trump’s image, and Johnson in particular is eager to maintain his closeness to the former president. The Speaker’s efforts in that regard have paid political dividends, with Trump publicly opposing efforts to oust Johnson.

Still, Johnson’s presence was also a reminder of how the features of the current political scene would have been unimaginable a decade ago: The man second in line to the Oval Office showed up to back a former president accused of 34 felonies — and who has another three criminal trials pending.

 

Johnson’s ‘intuition’ clashes with data on illegal voting

May 12, 2023

https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/4657038-mike-johnson-illegal-voting-voter-fraud/

The GOP unveiled a bill last week to bar noncitizens from voting in federal elections — prohibiting something that’s already illegal to address a problem lawmakers can’t prove exists.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) was candid last week in telling reporters that Republicans are motivated by intuition in seeking another law that would limit voting to U.S. citizens.

“We all know, intuitively, that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections. But it’s not been something that is easily provable. We don’t have that number. This legislation will allow us to do exactly that — it will prevent that from happening. And if someone tries to do it, it will now be unlawful within the states,” Johnson said in a Wednesday press conference on the Capitol steps.

Federal law since 1996 has banned noncitizens from voting in federal elections, and many states have passed laws that do the same for local elections.

So Johnson’s speech was a jarring admission to voting rights advocates who have the data on noncitizens voting — figures that show how minimal such instances are.

“Well, the thing is, we actually do have the numbers, and we know that noncitizens don’t vote illegally in detectable numbers, let alone in large numbers,” said Eliza Sweren-Becker, a senior counsel in the Voting Rights & Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, pointing to a study reviewing data from 42 different jurisdictions. 

“The Brennan Center study from the 2016 general election showed an estimated 30 incidents of suspected — not confirmed — noncitizen votes out of 23.5 million, which is 0.0001 percent of the votes cast. So the Speaker’s intuition is incorrect,” she told The Hill.

That’s a conclusion that’s also been reached by the libertarian Cato Institute, with one of its experts calling the claims one of the “most frequent and less serious criticisms” relating to migration.

Johnson’s appeal to gut feeling touched a raw nerve with civil rights advocates, who see illegal voting as a nonissue and a proxy to enact voter suppression against underserved communities.

“Intuition doesn’t count for anything — doesn’t mean a lick. And we need proof. We need specifics. And I can tell you that many of our organizations have scoured for any signs of voting that has been irregular or done by folks who are not qualified. There just hasn’t been any evidence,” said Janet Murguía, president of UnidosUS, the country’s largest Latino civil rights organization.

“So he can have intuition all he wants, but that does not mean it’s true. It does not mean there is evidence, and it does not mean it’s factual. We need to see specifics, data to demonstrate any proof of irregularities.”

Johnson first floated the framework for the bill in an April trip to Mar-a-Lago, making the announcement alongside former President Trump shortly after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) threatened a vote to oust him.

“I think this is another way for him to appease the crazies on the right, because he’s on the chopping block right now and he’s got to do something to feed them some red bait, and we saw him do that when he stood next to Trump at Mar-a-Lago,” Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Díaz Barragán (D-Calif.) said.

House Democrats joined a majority of Republicans to save Johnson’s job in a floor vote just hours after he unveiled the voter fraud bill alongside numerous Trump allies including Stephen Miller, the architect of many of Trump’s immigration policies, and former acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, who helped carry them out. Cleta Mitchell, who aided in Trump’s legal efforts to challenge the 2020 election results after he lost, was also in attendance. 

The Safeguard American Voter Eligibility, or SAVE Act, would require voters to demonstrate they are citizens in order to be able to cast a ballot.

Such measures have often sparked concern among voting rights advocates who fear many citizens don’t have passports or birth certificates on hand, documents that can be expensive to get and create barriers to accessing the ballot box.

Sweren-Becker said the Brennan Center has found that between 5 percent and 7 percent of Americans, adding up to millions of people, don’t have “the most common types of documents used to prove citizenship.”

It’s a barrier that has played out as states have passed their own proof of citizenship laws — many which have since been struck down in court. A Kansas law on the books for three years resulted in more than 22,000 people suspended from voter rolls after failure to submit proof of citizenship. Courts have killed that law along with similar plans in several other states, though in March a federal judge upheld an Arizona law after a multiyear effort to require proof of citizenship to vote.

“It’s stupid. It’s already illegal. They’re trying to create a message – a lie – to the American people that undocumented people are voting. It’s illegal to do that now. They don’t need to do another bill. It’s already illegal,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said.

“It’s just one more waste of time that the GOP is specializing in.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), one of the chief crafters of the legislation, said Wednesday it is needed because “the most fundamental thing you can do to destroy the rule of law and to destroy our republic is to undermine faith in our elections.”

“We should have documentary proof. … We should have a system to guarantee that only citizens of the United States vote in federal elections,” he said.

But advocates have long maintained that system is already in place, and they say research from right-leaning organizations proves it.

“We’ve got organizations that have been, you know, sort of right-wing organizations, very conservative organizations, highly scrutinize this area of any potential for illegal voting by anyone who’s not qualified, particularly undocumented, and they just can’t report any great number, if at all,” Murguía said.

The Heritage Foundation maintains a database of what it calls “recent” instances of voter fraud, though some cases in the file go back to the 1980s. Under “ineligible voting,” the database reports about 50 cases of voting by noncitizens.

Among the noncitizen voting cases, many involve visa holders or legal permanent residents rather than people living in the country illegally.

Ahead of the 2014 midterm elections in Florida, then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced a program to purge 180,000 foreign nationals from voter rolls, but that number was first reduced to 2,600, then to 198, until 85 names were removed from the rolls and only one person was prosecuted.

Unlike other crimes where it can be difficult to sort out the culprit, voter registration and casting a ballot creates the paper trail that is itself the crime.

Noncitizens who even register to vote or take another action to falsely claim they are a citizen could face up to five years in prison, and those who cast a ballot could be incarcerated for up to one year.

Those who violate the law also face deportation and jeopardize any chances at gaining citizenship.

The man prosecuted in Florida’s voter purge, Josef Sever, was sentenced to five months in prison, a relatively short sentence handed down by the judge in consideration that Sever would almost certainly be deported.

“The consequences are so severe that really this is not something that anybody would risk,” Sweren-Becker said.

“And that intuition actually bears out in the numbers.”

The evolution of Mike Johnson on Ukraine

‘How does it feel to be a RINO?’ one Republican asked the speaker last week after he decided to advance funding for Ukraine in its war with Russia

Updated April 21, 2024 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/04/21/ukraine-aid-mike-johnson-house-speaker/

 

Letters from an American, Heather Cox RichardsonApril 17, 2024

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/

[Excerpt:]

Earlier this month, both Representative Michael R. Turner (R-OH), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned about Russian disinformation in their party. Turner told CNN’s State of the Union that it is “absolutely true” that Republican members of Congress are parroting Russian propaganda. “We see directly coming from Russia attempts to mask communications that are anti-Ukraine and pro-Russia messages, some of which we even hear being uttered on the House floor.” When asked which Republicans had fallen to Russian propaganda, McCaul answered that it is “obvious.”

That growing popular awareness has highlighted that House Republicans under House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) have for six months refused to pass a national security supplemental bill with additional aid for Ukraine, as well as for Israel and the Indo-Pacific, and humanitarian aid to Gaza. After the Senate spent two months negotiating border security provisions House Republicans demanded, Republicans killed that bill with the provisions at Trump’s direction, and the Senate then passed a bill without those provisions in February.

Johnson has been coordinating closely with former president Trump, who has made his admiration for Russia and his disregard for Ukraine very clear since his people weakened their support for Ukraine in the 2016 Republican Party platform.Johnson is also under pressure from MAGA Republicans in the House, like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who oppose funding Ukraine, some of them by making statements that echo Russian propaganda.

While the White House, the Pentagon, and a majority of both chambers of Congress believe that helping Ukraine defend itself is crucial to U.S. security, Johnson has refused to take the Senate measure up, even though the House would pass it if he did. But as Ukraine’s ability to defend itself has begun to weaken, pressure for additional aid has ramped up. At the same time, in the wake of Iran’s attack on Israel last weekend, Republicans have suddenly become eager to provide additional funds to Israel. It began to look as if Johnson might bring up some version of foreign aid.

But discussions of bringing forward Ukraine aid brought not only Greene but also Thomas Massie (R-KY) to threaten yesterday to challenge Johnson’s speakership, and there are too few Republicans in the House to defend him.

Today, Johnson brought forward not the Senate bill, but rather three separate bills to fund Israel, the Indo-Pacific, and Ukraine, with pieces that House Republicans have sought. A fourth bill will include other measures Republicans have demanded. And a fifth will permit an up-or-down vote on most of the measures in the extreme border bill the House passed in 2023. At the time, that measure was intended as a signaling statement because House Republicans knew that the Democratic Senate would keep it from becoming law.

Johnson said he expected to take a final vote on the measures Saturday evening. He will almost certainly need Democratic votes to pass them, and possibly to save his job. Democrats have already demanded the aid to Gaza that was in the Senate bill but is not yet in the House bills.

Reese Gorman, political reporter for The Daily Beast, reported that Johnson explained his change of heart like this: “Look, history judges us for what we do. This is a critical time right now…  I can make a selfish decision and do something that is different but I’m doing here what I believe to be the right thing.… I think providing lethal aid to Ukraine right now is critically important.… I’m willing to take personal risk for that.”

His words likely reflect a changing awareness in Republican Party leadership that the extremism of MAGA Republicans is exceedingly unpopular. Trump’s courtroom appearances—where, among other things, he keeps falling asleep—are unlikely to bolster his support, while his need for money is becoming more and more of a threat both to his image and to his fellow Republicans. Today the Trump campaign asked Republican candidates in downballot races for at least 5% of the money they raise with any fundraising appeal that uses Trump’s name or picture. They went on: “Any split that is higher than 5% will be seen favorably by the RNC and President Trump’s campaign and is routinely reported to the highest levels of leadership within both organizations.”

Nonetheless, Greene greeted Johnson’s bills with amendments requiring members of Congress to “conscript in the Ukrainian military” if they voted for aid to Ukraine.

A headline on the Fox News media website today suggested that a shift away from MAGA is at least being tested. It read: “Marjorie Taylor Greene is an idiot. She is trying to wreck the [Republican Party].” The article pointed out that 61% of registered voters disapprove of the Republican Party while only 36% approve. That approval rating has indeed fallen at least in part because of the performative antics of the extremists, among them the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that made him the first cabinet officer to be impeached in almost 150 years. Today the Senate killed that impeachment without a trial.

As soon as Johnson announced the measures, President Joe Biden threw his weight behind them. In a statement, he said: “I strongly support this package to get critical support to Israel and Ukraine, provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. Israel is facing unprecedented attacks from Iran, and Ukraine is facing continued bombardment from Russia that has intensified dramatically in the last month.

“The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow. I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

[Boldface added]

 

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

March 22, 2024

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/

[Excerpt]:

Midnight tonight was the deadline for the continuing resolution that was funding much of the government, and the House finally passed the necessary appropriations bills this morning, just hours before the deadline, by a vote of 286–134. Democrats put the bill over the top, adding 185 yea votes to the 101 Republicans voting in favor of the bill. In a blow to House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), 112 Republicans joined 22 Democrats to vote against the measure.. 

As soon as the bill passed, Johnson recessed the House until April 9.

Because the deadline to prevent a government shutdown was so tight, the Senate needed to take the House measure up immediately. But Senate rules mean that such a quick turnaround needs unanimous consent, and right-wing senators refused to give it. 

Instead, Republican senators Ted Budd (NC), Mike Lee (UT), Ted Cruz (TX), and Rand Paul (KY) demanded votes on extremist amendments to try to jam Democrats into a bind before the upcoming election. If the amendments passed, the government would shut down for the purely mechanical reason that the House can’t consider any amendments until it gets back to work in April. So the Democrats would certainly vote against any amendments to keep the government open. But this would mean they were on record with unpopular votes in an election year. 

The demand for amendments was partisan posturing, but the delay was particularly nasty: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who was a key negotiator of the bill, needed to get back to Maine for her mother’s funeral. 

In the House, the passage of the appropriations bill and the recess prompted significant changes. Representative Kay Granger (R-TX) announced she is stepping down from chairing the Appropriations Committee. 

Another Republican representative, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, announced he will leave Congress early, stepping down on April 19. Gallagher is chair of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and has voiced frustration with the current state of his party. His absence will shave the Republican House majority to just one vote, and the timing of his departure means he will not be replaced this session. Wisconsin law leaves any vacancy after the second Tuesday in April until the general election.

Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) announced last week that he, too, was leaving Congress early, complaining that “[t]his place has just evolved into…bickering and nonsense.” Today was his last day in the House. Before he left, he became the first Republican to sign on to the discharge petitions that would bring Ukraine aid to the floor even without House speaker Johnson’s support.

Despite the frustration of their colleagues, extremist Republicans are not backing down. After the appropriations measure passed, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told reporters she has filed a motion to vacate the chair to punish Johnson for permitting the bill to pass without more extremist demands. Her threat will hang over the two-week break, but it is not clear what the House will do with her motion; they might simply bottle it up in committee. 

Greene might not push a vote on the speaker right now in part because of pressure from her colleagues to cut it out. They understand that the extraordinary dysfunction of the House under Republicans’ control is hurting them before the 2024 election, and another speaker fight would only add to the chaos. There is also the reality that with such a small majority, Johnson would have to rely on Democrats to save his speakership if it were challenged, and a number of them have suggested they would vote to keep him in the chair if he would agree to bring a vote on aid for Ukraine to the floor. 

Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) told CNN that he would “make common cause with anybody who will stand up for the people of Ukraine, anybody who will get desperately needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and anybody who will work for a two state solution. I’m up for conversations with anybody.” 

The cost of Johnson’s withholding of assistance for Ukraine is mounting. Last night, Russia launched the largest barrages of missiles and drones since its war began at Ukraine’s power grid, leaving more than a million people without power and degrading Ukraine’s energy sector. The Institute for the Study of War assessed today that “continued delays in Western security assistance…are reportedly expected to significantly constrain Ukraine‘s air defense umbrella,” leaving Ukrainian forces unable to defend against missile attacks. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky once again begged for aid, saying: “Russian missiles do not suffer delays in the way aid packages to our country do. Shahed drones are not affected by indecision like some politicians are.”

Ukraine has been using drones to attack Russia’s oil refineries, but Russia had a new problem today as a deadly attack on a Moscow concert hall claimed at least 60 lives. The Islamic State’s Afghan branch, known as ISIS-K, which advocates for civilian mass-casualty events to weaken governments, claimed responsibility for the attack. 

[Boldface added]

 

Trump Fully Devours the Republican Establishment

Long a dominant force over the party’s institutions, he is now moving to fully eradicate their independence and remake them in his own image.https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/16/us/politics/trump-republican-party-establishment.html

Reporting from Washington and Conway, S.C.

[Excerpts:]

Donald J. Trump is stamping out the final flashes of independence inside Republican institutions with astonishing speed, demonstrating that his power continues to expand over the new party establishment he has created.

At the Republican National Committee, he is moving to replace longtime supporters with allies even more closely bound to him, including his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump.

In the House, Republicans are more compliant than ever. Most vividly, Speaker Mike Johnson — ostensibly the party’s top-ranking official — backtracked on an endorsement in a crucial Senate race because Mr. Trump disagreed. On Thursday, Mr. Johnson’s candidate ended his campaign less than one week after opening it.

In the Senate, which has been less beholden to Mr. Trump, his influence over a failed border bill made one of the party’s most effective lawmakers, Mitch McConnell, look weak.

The displays of obedience emerging in recent weeks remove any lingering doubt that the Republican Party is aligned to advance the interests of one man, signaling that a sweep of victories from Mr. Trump and his allies in November could also mean replacing checks and balances in Washington with his wishes and whims.

 

Speaker Johnson rebuffs Senate Ukraine package

https://thehill.com/homenews/house/

[Excerpts:]

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) rejected a bipartisan Senate proposal providing aid to Ukraine and other foreign allies Monday, raising new questions about how — or if — Congress will adopt the assistance ahead of November’s elections. 

The Speaker’s position is a shot at his Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is racing to secure more funding for Ukraine’s beleaguered military forces two years into Russia’s invasion.

It also aligns House Republicans squarely with former President Trump, the runaway favorite to clinch the GOP’s presidential nomination, who opposes more Ukraine aid and is pressing congressional Republicans to do the same.

 

Behind the border mess: Open GOP rebellion against McConnell

The Republican leader told POLITICO that his critics “had their shot” already. But conservatives are not done whacking him over the immigration-for-Ukraine aid implosion.

https://www.politico.com/news/2024/02/07/mcconnell-gop-rebellion-border-deal-00139972

[Excerpts; boldface added:]

Conservative hardliners once celebrated Mitch McConnell for wrestling the federal judiciary to the right and thwarting progressive hopes.

Now he is under open attack from the right for even trying to work with Democrats on the border.

Trump and Speaker Mike Johnson helped squash the border bill’s prospects in the House while Ron Johnson, Lee, Cruz, Scott and Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) pummeled it on TV and social media. The intensity of that assault turned many GOP senators sour on a border security deal that would have amounted to the most conservative immigration bill backed by a Democratic president in a generation — a bill they once said was the key to unlocking Ukraine aid.

The historical record holds plenty of quotes from McConnell’s current critics asking for stronger border policy during the Trump administration. Many of them now have since changed their tune to say Biden doesn’t need new laws at all to enforce border security.

“We all wanted to see border security. And I think a lot of our members were demanding that in exchange for the rest of the funding. That’s an issue our conference needs to be aware of,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the No. 4 leader. “The conference wanted border security.”

Now the reality is that Trump, the likely nominee, doesn’t want a deal that Republicans set out to secure four months ago. Deal-making without Trump’s blessing appears impossible, and that’s a challenging dynamic for the longtime GOP leader.

“This wasn’t good for him. This wasn’t good for any of us,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) of McConnell, whom he backed in 2022. “And I’m not gonna say he’s the total cause of it, but we got to have a better plan. This didn’t work out for us.”

Ursula Perano contributed to this report.

 

Mike Johnson Wants Civility—And Trump

January 25, 2024

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/mike-johnson-speaker-republican-party

[Excerpt:]

Johnson is now well-known to many Americans for being the second least experienced elected Speaker (the first being John G. Carlisle who won the gavel in 1883) and for his extremist views on abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, evolution, the separation of church and state, and climate science.

Johnson is also known for his efforts in trying to overturn the 2020 election. His argument against certifying Joe Biden’s presidency was rooted in a baseless, far-right legal theory that the states, and only the states, can set federal election rules—not Congress.

“His great virtue is his civility and politeness and Southern charm,” said Jaime Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who led the argument against Johnson’s push to decertify Biden’s presidency, adding: “But he’s a raging theocrat who doesn’t believe in the basic precepts of the Constitution.”

[Boldface added]

 

Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

November 10, 2023

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/

n Washington, Republicans have empowered Christian extremist Mike Johnson (R-LA) to lead the House of Representatives as speaker, and today we learned that outside his office he displays a flag associated with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) network that wants to place the United States government under the control of right-wing Christians. On January 6, 2021, rioters took these flags with them into the U.S. Capitol.

Johnson is also associated with a right-wing movement to call a convention of states to rewrite the Constitution.

 

The Key to Mike Johnson’s Christian Extremism Hangs Outside His Office

The newly elected House speaker has ties to the far-right New Apostolic Reformation — which is hell-bent on turning America into a religious state

THE AMERICAN PUBLIC has had much to learn about Mike Johnson over the past two weeks. 

He’s also a dyed-in-the-wool Christian conservative, and there’s a flag hanging outside his office that leads into a universe of right-wing religious extremism as unknown to most Americans as Johnson was before he ascended to the speakership.

Johnson slots firmly within the more hardline evangelical wing of the Republican coalition. He holds stringent positions on abortion, thinks homosexuality is a lifestyle choice that should not be recognized under legal protections against discrimination, defends young Earth creationism, blames school shootings on the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and questions the framework of the separation of church and state. “The founders wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state, not the other way around,” he has said.

Johnson was also integral to Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. As The New York Times has reported, he collected signatures for a brief supporting a Texas lawsuit alleging, without evidence, irregularities in election results; served a key role in the GOP’s attempts to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election; and touted Trump’s conspiracy theories about election fraud, even saying, “You know the allegations about these voting machines, some of them being rigged with this software by Dominion, there’s a lot of merit to that.”

If this was all we knew about Mike Johnson, we could accurately say that he is a full-bore, right-wing Christian and an election denier who dabbles in conspiracy theories — qualities that might give one pause before putting him second in line to the presidency. But there is another angle to Johnson’s extremism that has received less scrutiny, and it brings us back to that flag outside his office.

The flag — which Rolling Stone has confirmed hangs outside his district office in the Cannon House Office Building —  is white with a simple evergreen tree in the center and the phrase “An Appeal to Heaven” at the top. Historically, this flag was a Revolutionary War banner, commissioned by George Washington as a naval flag for the colony turned state of Massachusetts. The quote “An Appeal to Heaven” was a slogan from that war, taken from a treatise by the philosopher John Locke. But in the past decade it has come to symbolize a die-hard vision of a hegemonically Christian America.

To understand the contemporary meaning of the Appeal to Heaven flag, it’s necessary to enter a world of Christian extremism animated by modern-day apostles, prophets, and apocalyptic visions of Christian triumph that was central to the chaos and violence of Jan. 6. Earlier this year we released an audio-documentary series, rooted in deep historical research and ethnographic interviews, on this sector of Christianity, which is known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The flag hanging outside Johnson’s office is a key part of its symbology.

The New Apostolic Reformation is a set of networks of Christian leaders that formed in the 1990s around a renegade evangelical seminary professor named C. Peter Wagner. These networks are part of the nondenominational charismatic segment of Christianity (“charismatic” here is a technical term of Christian theology and practice describing a spirituality built around miraculous manifestations and aiming to re-create the supernaturally imbued environment of the early Christian church). Wagner and his cohort believed that they were at the vanguard of a revolution in church leadership that Wagner often described as “the most radical change to the way of doing church since, at least, the Protestant Reformation.”

The hundreds of leaders who joined Wagner’s movement and leadership-networking circles almost all identify as apostles (enterprising church builders) or prophets (who hear directly from God), though some identify as both. In the mid-2000s, these NAR networks collectively embraced a theological paradigm called the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” a prophecy that divides society into seven arenas — religion, family, government, education, arts and entertainment, media, and business. The “Mandate,” as they understand it, is given by God for Christians to “take dominion” and “conquer” the tops of all seven of these sectors and have Christian influence flow down into the rest of society. 

Drawn into American politics by this aggressive theological vision, many New Apostolic Reformation leaders became very active in right-wing political circles, including one of Wagner’s key disciples, an apostle-prophet named Dutch Sheets. Sheets is not a household name in Christian politics like Jerry Falwell or Ralph Reed or James Dobson, but he has real influence. Sheets has written more than 18 popular evangelical books, and his Intercessory Prayer has sold more than a million copies. He was an endorser and faith adviser to Newt Gingrinch’s short-lived candidacy for president in 2012, and he openly espoused the lie that Barack Obama was secretly a Muslim.

In 2013, Sheets was given an Appeal to Heaven flag by a friend who told him that, because it predated the Stars and Stripes, it was the flag that “had flown over our nation at its birthing.” Sheets describes this experience as revelatory, and he seized upon the flag as a symbol of the spiritual-warfare driven Christian nationalist revolution he hoped to see in American politics. In 2015, he published a book titled An Appeal to Heaven and rolled out a systematic campaign to propagate this symbol in right-wing Christian circles. That same year Sarah Palin wrote an opinion piece in Breitbart, endorsing the Appeal to Heaven campaign and thanking her “[s]pecial friends, Pastor Dutch and Ceci Sheets,” who had given her the flag.

Sheets and his fellow New Apostolic Reformation leaders were the tip of the spear of Christian Trumpism, endorsing Donald Trump’s candidacy early on and championing his cause to their fellow Christians. Over the course of the 2016 campaign, the Appeal to Heaven flag and the NAR’s vision of a Christianity-dominated America became entwined with Trump, a potent-though-covert symbol.

Since 2015, you can find these Appeal to Heaven flags popping up over and over: in the background of pictures of far-right politicians and election deniers like Doug Mastriano; as wall decorations in state legislators’ offices; at right-wing rallies. It even flew over the Illinois State Capitol for a time at the instigation of the Illinois Apostolic Alliance, a local NAR activist group.

We make the case in our audio-documentary series that the New Apostolic Reformation networks were at the molten core of Christian mobilization for Jan. 6, with many NAR leaders in attendance that day, including a handful of C. Peter Wagner’s closest menteesDutch Sheets was integral to this effort, propelling the Appeal to Heaven narrative alongside the Stop the Steal narrative through his popular daily prophecy podcast in the lead-up to the riot. 

This is why, if you look closely at the panopticon of videos and pictures of the Capitol insurrection, Appeal to Heaven flags are everywhere. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of them punctuating the crowd, including even on the front lines of clashes between rioters and Capitol police officers — a powerful signal of the spread of Sheets’ ideas and influence. 

Hundreds of Christian figures supported Trump’s effort to overthrow the 2020 election, but, having spent years researching and tracking the direct influences on Christians who actually showed up on Jan. 6, we contend that no single Christian leader contributed more to this effort to mobilize Christians against the very structures of American democracy than Sheets. One case in point: Sheets and his team were reportedly at the White House a week before the insurrection, strategizing with administration officials, as we reported on Jan. 6, 2023: 

On December 29, 2020 — eight days before the insurrection — Sheets and his team of prophets were in Washington, D.C., staying at the Willard Hotel, the site of the various war rooms overseen by Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon. On that day, Sheets, along with 14 other apostles and prophets, had a multi-hour meeting inside the White House with Trump administration officials. Who exactly among White House Staff attended this meeting is unclear (and the Trump administration has made the White House Visitor Logs secret and invulnerable to FOIA requests until 2026). But members of Sheets’ team posted photos of themselves (with White House visitor passes) both outside and inside the building.

The Appeal to Heaven flag was the banner of this mobilization, which brings us back to Mike Johnson and the flag outside his office. What does it signal that the speaker of the House of Representatives is purposely flying this symbol of Christian warfare? 

When Rolling Stone reached out to Johnson’s office for comment, a spokesperson for his personal office noted that all members have three flag posts outside their office and that Johnson flies the Appeal to Heaven flag alongside the American and Louisiana flags. “Rep. Johnson’s Appeal to Heaven flag was a gift to him and other members of Congress by Pastor Dan Cummins, who has served as a guest chaplain for the House of Representatives over a dozen times, under Speakers from both parties,” the spokesperson wrote, adding that Johnson appreciates the “rich history of the flag,” citing its connection to George Washington and John Locke.

Accepting this backstory as true, it does not in any way refute our basic premise that this flag, since Dutch Sheets’ spiritual-warfare appropriation of it in 2013, connotes an aggressive form of Christian nationalism. In fact, Pastor Dan Cummins, whom Johnson credits as the one who gave him the flag, is a mentee of another major NAR leader (and Trump evangelical adviser) named Jim Garlow. Johnson has described Garlow as having “a profound influence” on his life and spirituality.

Garlow and Cummins have long operated as Christian nationalist activists targeting members of Congress. The Appeal to Heaven Flag was flown over Garlow’s former California church beginning in 2017, and Garlow himself has celebrated how the flag “has recently become an important flag in the present day spiritual warfare prayer movement.” If anything, Johnson’s office’s statement only highlights another vector of NAR and Christian nationalist influence on the new speaker.

 

The Mind of Mike Johnson

When Reagan met MAGA

While Johnson has talked the Reagan talk throughout his life, he’s also walked the MAGA walk in Congress. Johnson served as a member of the defense team during both of Trump’s Senate impeachment trials, and he helped lead the effort to get House members to sign on to an amicus brief supporting the State of Texas’s lawsuit attempting to invalidate the election results in four states that Biden won in 2020.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the Texas case on the grounds that the state lacked standing, but on January 6, Johnson relied on the lawsuit’s underlying argument — that changes to election procedures because of Covid precautions had rendered Electoral College results invalid in states where changes were not approved by state legislatures — as a rationale to vote to reject the counting of Electoral College votes from some states where Biden won.

When I asked Speaker Johnson on November 2 whether he regretted any of his actions between the 2020 election and January 6, 2021, he told me: “No, I stand by that position, even today, adamantly.”

Pointing to a 1,200-word statement he issued on January 6, Johnson said: “In terms of that constitutional argument, I stand by that 100 percent today because it’s still precisely right. It’s not an opinion based on the Constitution. It comes straight out of the black-letter law, right off the page. And so, you know, no one’s ever been able to argue the counter to that.” Many legal scholars have, in fact, countered that argument.

For example, National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy wrote on January 5, 2021, that Congress had “no legal basis to object” to, “much less to reject any state’s electoral votes. Every state has certified. Every state has just one lawfully designated slate of electors.” The overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans and a substantial minority of House Republicans opposed efforts to reject the results of the Electoral College. Texas GOP congressman Chip Roy, for example, methodically picked apart the arguments in favor of rejecting Electoral College votes on January 6.

Johnson’s signing on to the Texas lawsuit did not make him unique — a majority of the House Republicans did so, including leaders McCarthy, Scalise, and Emmer. But Johnson did go out on a limb to lend credence to one of Trump’s most absurd and reckless claims.

“You know the allegations about these voting machines, some of them being rigged with this software by Dominion — look, there’s a lot of merit to that. And when the president says the election is rigged, that’s what he’s talking about,” Johnson said in a November 17, 2020, radio interview.

Asked about the comment, Johnson told me: “I don’t even recall saying that. But if I did, we would have been dealing with information that we had on November 17. A lot more has come out, obviously, since then.” Does he agree now that the allegations have been disproven? “Well, I mean, Dominion software is still used on voting machines all around the country. I don’t guess the states would still be using it if they thought it was fraudulent. I’m sure that’s all been checked out,” he replies. “I mean, frankly, I’m not an election-law expert, and I haven’t spent any time digging into the issue myself.”

There were plenty of news articles debunking Trump’s claims about Dominion at the time Johnson said there was “a lot of merit” to them, and a hand recount of paper ballots in Georgia that was concluded two days after Johnson made his initial remarks definitively disproved the theory that the machines had counted a Biden vote as more than one vote and a Trump vote as less than one. Fox News paid Dominion $787 million to settle a defamation case earlier this year.

Johnson emphasizes now that a unique set of circumstances was present in 2020 that ultimately served as the basis for his objections. “That election was unlike any other in history and hopefully unlike any that will happen in the future. And it’s because, occasioned by Covid, you had all these irregularities” regarding election procedures, he says. “We may never know how much [fraud] was ultimately involved.”

Johnson’s conduct in the run-up to January 6 makes it difficult to imagine any scenario in which he’d oppose Donald Trump, but it’s also very difficult to imagine a scenario in which Biden wins the Electoral College and Johnson remains speaker. The House GOP gained only a thin majority despite winning the popular vote by three percentage points in 2022, and if Biden wins a second term in 2024, that would almost certainly mean that House Republicans nationwide had lost the popular vote.

 

How Speaker Mike Johnson’s plans for a Christian law school unraveled

Johnson vouched for the school — and agreed to serve as its dean — without seeing a key feasibility study, he would ultimately admit

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/10/everything-to-know-about-mike-johnson

[Excerpts:}

At the time of Johnson’s accession, a lot of Americans likely had no idea who he was; actual Republican senator Susan Collins, for one, told a reporter she didn’t know Johnson but planned to remedy that by googling him. And if you weren’t familiar with Johnson, you might’ve assumed that that was maybe even a good thing—that he was just a quiet Republican who hadn’t gotten wrapped up in the insanity plaguing the GOP over the last seven or so years.

He didn’t have the name recognition of, say, Jim Jordan or Matt Gaetz, but perhaps that simply spoke to the fact that he wasn’t leading a series of absurd hearings in an attempt to take down Joe Biden; or bragging about being so devoted to Donald Trump that he answered his phone calls during sex. Maybe, you might have thought, he wasn’t someone you’d have to constantly worry about re: undermining democracy or trying to take away people’s rights.

Unfortunately, that is not the case with Johnson, who may not have been well known prior to being given one of the most powerful jobs in government but is very much someone whose extremist views and actions should keep you up at night.

Herein, a running list of the absolute most WTF things the new Speaker has said and done on everything from the 2020 election to abortion to LGBTQ+ rights and more.

“It is our character that supports the promise of our future—far more than particular government programs or policies.”

— William Bennett