Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced on July 19 that he would oppose the confirmation of President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. attorney in his state, on the basis of tweets the nominee made about him following the events of Jan. 6, 2021. Johnson said the nominee would act as “another political partisan” if confirmed.
In several since-deleted tweets, Sopen Shah, Biden’s pick for U.S. attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, made several derogatory comments about Johnson.
During the Capitol breach on January 6, Shah said in a tweet preserved by web archives, “THIS IS TERRORISM” in response to reports that shots had been fired inside the Capitol.
The next day, following a comment by Johnson that those who objected to certifying the electoral count were not responsible for the violence the day before, Shah said in another archived tweet that “Wisconsin will teach [Johnson] a thing or two about accountability in 2022.”
In another tweet, after Johnson applauded President Donald Trump’s lawyers for their performance in a case at the time, Shah said, “I am 110% confident that @SenRonJohnson does not know how law works.”
“The reason we have a two-tiered system is because our justice system is increasingly populated with political partisans who are incapable of administering justice equally,” Johnson said of Shah’s nomination. “Through tweets that she has now deleted, Ms. Sopen Shah demonstrated she would be yet another political partisan within our justice system. As a result, I will not support her nomination.”
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the other senator from the state, called Shah “extremely well qualified” to serve as U.S. attorney and accused Johnson of “obstructing his own recommendation,” noting that both she and Johnson had supported Shah’s nomination the previous year.
“Senator Johnson is disrespecting the work of our Nominating Commission and abusing the Senate’s Blue Slip process to play his own personal politics about the 2020 election that Trump lost,” Baldwin said.
The “blue slip process” describes a Senate tradition in which both senators from a state must support a judicial nominee in order for it to move forward and face a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor.
Johnson’s opposition to Shah comes in the wake of efforts by the House January 6 Committee to paint Johnson’s office as having been involved in a supposed conspiracy surrounding a slate of alternative electors—which critics have called “fake electors”—in case of legal challenges to the state’s election results.
However, the texts released by the panel were incomplete, leaving out crucial details about Johnson’s involvement.
Those texts paint a scene of confusion in Johnson’s office that day after Trump campaign attorney James Troupis texted Johnson asking him to deliver an alternate slate of electors to Pence.
Johnson, who was unsure of the circumstances surrounding the request, handed the issue over to a staffer to untangle.
That staffer reached out to a Pence aide to ask to deliver the alternate slate of electors, but was advised by Pence’s aide not to do so since the alternate electors “were supposed to come in through the mail.” Johnson’s office did not push the issue.