MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) – The Republican investigation Wisconsin’s 2020 election, due to end this week, will continue as Donald Trump called for, but without taxpayer money to pay for it, the state’s top Republican said Tuesday.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ announcement that the investigation into President Joe Biden’s statewide battlefield victory would continue past Saturday, when the investigator’s contract was due to expire, came a day after Trump issued a thinly veiled threat to Vos. if he closed it.
Vos cited several ongoing lawsuits related to the investigation, but not Trump, in explaining the extension.
“The Office of the Special Counsel will remain open as we ensure the validity of our legislative subpoenas and move through other lawsuits that have stalled in this investigation,” Vos said.
The Wisconsin review is one of the few attempts by the Republican Party to look back at the 2020 election that have remained in place.
The derided investigation concluded in September in Arizona, but has yet to provide evidence to support Trump’s stolen election claims. Similar efforts are being made by Republicans in the states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, which are the battlefield of the presidential battle, where Biden also won. And in Utah, a group of Republican lawmakers in December approved an audit of the state’s electoral system. Unlike Arizona, the Utah effort will be conducted by impartial legislative auditors and will not be solely focused on 2020.
Vos hired former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman for $11,000 a month and launched an investigation after he was pressured by Trump and others to investigate the 2020 elections in Wisconsin. Biden won Wisconsin by almost 21,000 votes, a result that survived recounts, partisan and unbiased reviews, and numerous lawsuits.
Vos said the investigation would continue on his original budget of $676,000, and Gableman agreed to a pay cut. He did not say how much the cut would be, and his spokeswoman Angela Joyce said the details were still being worked out. She said Gableman asked to buy the stock office equipment he used, and Vos agreed. She didn’t have any other details.
Vos, longest-serving Speaker of the Assembly in state history, tried to calm the wing of his party who supports Trump and questions the outcome of the election, and also opposes those who want to nullify Biden’s victory.
Trump on Monday called for the investigation to continue.
“Anyone who calls himself a Republican in Wisconsin should support the continuation of the Wisconsin investigation without interference,” Trump said in a statement.
“I understand that some RINOs have major contenders in Wisconsin,” Trump said, without naming either Vos or his archrival, Adam Steen. “I’m sure their main opponents will have a huge advantage in the polls if these RINOs step in.”
The abbreviation RINO stands for Republican in Name Only.
Gableman, in a series of recent podcast appearances by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, urged Vos to be allowed to continue working. Gableman asked listeners to call Vos and e-mail him to not force movers to remove government furniture from his office on Tuesday.
Gableman did not respond to a message on Tuesday.
The Gableman investigation drew bipartisan criticism from the start. A conservative, he briefly worked in the Trump administration and said immediately after the election that he believed it had been stolen from Trump.
As the investigation began, Gableman was criticized for surrounding himself with Trump supporters, sending out confusing emails, making major mistakes in his paperwork, and meeting with conspiracy theorists. He was sued for his response to requests for open records and subpoenas from mayors and other local election officials who said they were willing to testify publicly, but not behind closed doors. Gableman hearing imprison mayors for non-compliance scheduled for July.
Last week, a judge ordered Gableman stop deleting emails and other records. The judge in the case has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday.
Gableman submitted two interim reports, most recently in March, but he failed to meet numerous deadlines. None of his discoveries provided substantiated evidence that Trump did indeed win Wisconsin.
Gableman’s recommendation that the Republican-controlled legislature consider decertifying a Biden victory was met with acclaim. bipartisan contempt.
In recent weeks Gableman provoked new criticism for dismissing the way Wisconsin’s chief election administrator, Meagan Wolfe, dressed.
Investigative documents released to the public at the end of April showed that the investigation had expanded to examine the political leanings of civil servants running in the elections. One unsigned note drew criticism; it described a Milwaukee city employee as “probably” a Democrat because she has a “weird nose ring”, dyes her hair, and lives with her boyfriend.
“There’s something wrong with him,” Republican Senator Cathy Bernier, chair of the Senate Election Committee, said of Gableman in response to the memo.