CNN —  The rise of Rep. Mike Johnson in the House, coupled with the fall of former Vice President Mike Pence and the dominance of ex-President Donald Trump, shows that 2020 election denialism is a prerequisite for winning Republican power.

Johnson, who played a leading role in the effort to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win, benefited in his ascent to the speakership last week from the approval of pro-Trump lawmakers.

Pence suspended his run for the White House over the weekend after months mired in the single digits in surveys. His tortured explanations of his constitutionality correct decision – that he lacked power to overturn Biden’s 2020 election win in Congress – failed to convince grassroots Republicans bought into the ex-president’s false claims that he won the election. Pence now joins the swelling ranks of Republicans, from former Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney to retiring Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, whose careers were eviscerated by contradicting Trump’s lies.

Those lies – namely that he was unfairly and illegally ejected from the White House – are now the foundation of Trump’s 2024 campaign to win it back. And after discrediting the electoral system in the eyes of millions of his supporters, Trump is now setting about tarnishing another pillar of America’s democratic institutions – the courts. Over the weekend, the former president stepped up his social media rants at the judge presiding over a fraud trial in New York that targets him, his adult sons and his company, after he was fined for a second time last week for breaching a gag order by apparently attacking court personnel on social media.

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