MADISON, Wis. – The leader of the Wisconsin Republican Assembly on Friday ended a 14-month taxpayer-funded investigation into the election 2020 by dismissing his hand-picked investigator.
The dismissal of Michael Gableman by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos came just three days after lawmakers narrowly survived a primary challenge of an opponent supported by the former president donald trump and Gableman.
Although Gableman found no evidence of widespread fraud during his investigation, he had joined Trump in calling on lawmakers to consider decertifying the 2020 election – which Vos and legal experts say is unconstitutional and impossible. .
Vos announced the inquiry last year under pressure from Trump and chose Gableman, a conservative former Supreme Court justice, to lead it. But as the investigation progressed, Vos’ relationship soured with Gableman and Trump.
When he hired Gableman, Vos said he was “extremely confident” in his abilities. On Tuesday night, Vos called him “awkward.”
“After many members of our caucus have contacted me over the past few days, it is more than clear to me that we have only one choice in this matter, and that is to close the Council Office. special,” Vos said Friday in a statement first published by The Associated Press.
Gableman, who repeated Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen,” said Vos “never wanted a real investigation.” He and his attorney, James Bopp, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.
His investigation had drawn bipartisan scorn and his dismissal drew bipartisan praise.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has been highly critical of Gableman and the investigation. Spokeswoman Britt Cudaback responded with one word: “Finally.”
“It was a good decision. It would have been a better decision six months ago,” said Republican Senator Kathy Bernier, chair of the Senate Elections Committee, who went on to add that she had “zero respect.” for Michael Gableman.
Vos had repeatedly said the purpose of the investigation was not to nullify the 2020 election, a move Gableman acknowledged impossible in a private memo to Vos. Even Gableman’s attorney, Bopp, told lawmakers the decertification was “unnecessary.”
Vos said those concerned about election integrity should focus on defeating Evers, who vetoed changes Republicans want. Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels supports disbanding Wisconsin’s bipartisan Elections Commission and said he would have signed the bills Evers vetoed.
Michels’ adviser, Chris Walker, declined to comment on Gableman’s dismissal.
Vos hired Gableman to ease the pressure he felt from those who believed Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes, a result that survived prosecutions, recounts, reviews, audits, in addition to Gableman’s own investigation.
Unhappy with how he was treated by Vos, Gableman’s public comments critical of the speaker increased, as did those of Trump. In April, Gableman called for pressure on Vos to extend the former judge’s contract. Vos did, but with a pay cut from his initial $11,000 a month. Vos suspended the investigation in May, pending resolution of the pending lawsuits.
Their relationship hit a tipping point when Trump and Gableman endorsed Vos’ main opponent, leading to a tighter-than-expected race. Vos walked away with a victory of 260 votes. Vos said his win showed lawmakers “don’t need to be a lapdog for everything Donald Trump says.”
Gableman also faces legal issues.
On Tuesday, a judge was scheduled to determine whether Gableman was still in contempt of court for failing to comply with the state’s open archives law. Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington forwarded his contempt order to the attorneys’ sanctioning committee for possible further action, including suspension or revocation of Gableman’s law license.
It is one of six ongoing lawsuits related to the investigation.
Attorney fees awarded so far have resulted in a total tab for Gableman’s investigation, paid entirely by taxpayers, that exceeds $1.1 million.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said he was glad Vos had decided to end what he called a “colossal waste of taxpayers’ money to promote the big lie.”
“What we knew before this started remains true today: Our elections are free, fair and secure, and our election results reflect the will of voters,” said Kaul, who has an ongoing lawsuit against Gableman. .
Gableman used the probe to raise his national profile. He gave the prayer at Trump’s rally in Wisconsin this month and he’s been a regular on conservative talk radio, including an appearance where he bashed the way top Wisconsin election officials dress .
Gableman has also faced criticism for his insufficient expense reports, confusing emails, meeting with conspiracy theorists including MyPillow executive Mike Lindell, and rudimentary errors, including multiple spelling errors. . For example, in recordings released during the prosecutions, Gableman and his team routinely misspelled Vos as “Voss.”
Democratic state Sen. Melissa Agard said it was “long overdue” for Gableman to be fired.
“I’m glad President Vos stopped the bleeding so that those tax dollars went to a mock investigation,” she added.