“The fact that our last two presidential elections have not been accepted as legitimate by large percentages of the America public is a serious problem that threatens our republic,” Johnson said at the first federal hearing on the matter of election fraud.
According to officials, witnesses, whistleblowers, and data experts, some level of fraud and other irregularities occurred during the 2020 election, but the level of fraud is disputed.
The question is “whether the level of fraud would alter the outcome of the election,” Johnson said in his opening remarks.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, said that the current legal challenges to the election results “undermine the will of the people, disenfranchise voters, and sow the seeds of mistrust.”
Witnesses Speak OutPennsylvania state Rep. Francis X. Ryan told senators in his testimony (pdf) that the state’s mail-in ballot system for the election this year “was so fraught with inconsistencies and irregularities that the reliability of the mail-in votes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is impossible to rely upon.”
He noted how on Oct. 23, a petition from the Secretary of the Commonwealth ruled that mail-in ballots need not authenticate signatures, “thereby treating in-person and mail-in voters dissimilarly and eliminating a critical safeguard against potential election crime.”
Ryan also talked about a pattern of inconsistencies in the state’s results, noting how in a data file received on Nov. 4, the Commonwealth’s PA Open Data sites reported over 3.1 million mail-in ballots sent out.
“But on November 2, the information was provided that only 2.7 million ballots had been sent out,” he said. “This discrepancy of approximately 400,000 ballots from November 2 to November 4 has not been explained.”
Another witness, Jesse Binnall, one of the Trump campaign’s lawyers, told the committee that “the election was inevitably riddled with fraud, and our hotline never stopped ringing.”
Binnall said his team’s efforts in Nevada to obtain evidence to file lawsuits were met with denials from relevant election officials.
“The principle here is ... [the] Constitution is very clear that it is the prerogative of state legislatures to determine what these rules and laws are,” Starr told the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “And that was, I must say, flagrantly violated in Pennsylvania, and perhaps elsewhere as well.”
Starr, a former prosecutor who led an impeachment investigation into former President Bill Clinton’s affairs, cited the Supreme Court’s ruling on Bush v. Gore in 2000. Starr previously served as a circuit judge, a solicitor general, and was part of President Donald Trump’s legal counsel during the Senate impeachment trial.
“Bush v. Gore stands for [the] basic proposition” that the United States “cannot have changes to election laws after the fact,” Starr told Paul and other members of the panel.
The Supreme Court ruling, in a 7–2 vote, stipulated that Florida’s Supreme Court decision that called for a statewide recount violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. It was in reference to the presidential election between then-GOP candidate George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore.
Witness Christopher Krebs, who directed the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) before he was fired by Trump, said in his testimony that the allegations about manipulation of the equipment used in the election are baseless, dangerous, “and only serve to confuse, scare, and ultimately undermine confidence in the election.”
At one point during the hearing, Sen. Paul asserted that “fraud happened,” and that “the election in many ways was stolen, and the only way it'll be fixed is by in the future reinforcing the laws.”
Since Election Day, Trump and third-party groups have pursued legal challenges to the outcome of the election in six states. None of the efforts have so far succeeded in court, including an interstate Supreme Court challenge brought by Texas and backed by 19 Republican attorneys general.