After barely surviving a primary challenge from a no-name, Trump-endorsed opponent, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) trashed the partisan 2020 election investigation for which he’s authorized more than $1 million.
The leader of that so-called investigation, Michael Gableman, had endorsed Vos’ challenger, Adam Steen, in an effort to knock Vos out of one of the state’s top jobs. So had Donald Trump, who’d pressed Vos to decertify the 2020 election — a legal impossibility Vos rejected.
Trump endorsed Steen a week before the primary election day, calling him a “rising patriotic candidate.” He gave Steen a rally shoutout Friday as well. Gableman recorded a robocall in which he said Vos “never wanted a real investigation into the 2020 election in Wisconsin” — attempting to royally screw Vos after the legislative leader funded and promoted Gableman’s investigation for over a year.
So, when returns Tuesday night showed he was likely to win a narrow victory, Vos let loose.
“Mike Gableman is an embarrassment to the state,” he told reporters at an election night event. Later, Vos added: “We asked two simple things: Don’t get involved in politics and please try to make sure you focus on the investigation, not being on TV. He couldn’t help himself.”
Vos also attacked Trump for endorsing Steen. Referring to Trump, accidentally or not, as the “sitting president,” Vos said he’d “picked a side for somebody who literally just parachuted into the district, and made it really close, because there are obviously a large chunk of people who still think we should be looking backwards instead of forwards.”
He also accused “the other side” of intimidating voters on Tuesday and stealing yard signs. Vos said his win proved lawmakers “don’t have to be a lapdog to whatever Donald Trump says.”
Vos Funded, Enabled Endless 2020 Election Review
Alas, Vos has no one to blame but himself for Gableman’s Trumpian, shambolic, disinformation-fueled “investigation” of the 2020 election. It was Vos who authorized the probe and hired Gableman more than a year ago, and Vos who stood by Gableman’s side even as the former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice made evidently clear that he was not uncovering anything of value in his probe.
Gableman was openly partisan as he conducted his examination of the election, praising a Republican candidate for governor, hiring one investigator who led an organization that had sued to overturn the 2020 election results, and another who’d opined that the 2020 election was “was stolen, fair and square” and stressed the need for “our own irate hooligans” such as the Proud Boys. Gableman’s probe was originally scheduled to end on Oct. 31 last year, then December, then February, then April.
In March, as Vos extended Gableman’s contract yet again, Vos took aim not at Gableman, who he said had done an “outstanding job,” but at Democrats.
“We will continue to fight the obstruction and myriad of lawsuits filed by Democrats and out-of-state liberal activists, questioning the legislature’s subpoena power and ultimately keeping this matter from concluding in the time frame we expected,” Vos said. That comment came well after Gableman had sought to jail liberal mayors in Wisconsin who refused to cooperate with the review.
Vos and Gableman have both been found in contempt of court by state judges in Wisconsin, an outcome of the multiple public records lawsuits they’ve faced related to the investigation. Vos’ latest contract extension for Gableman had literally no end date at all — except to say that Gableman’s office “may remain open in order prosecute [sic] a series of lawsuits the Office is engaged in.”
And yet Gableman has repeatedly failed to show any smoking gun of election fraud. Rather, he made false assertions such as the claim that a large number of nursing homes had 100% voter turnout in 2020 — which was simply not true.
Recently, Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ruled against Gableman’s probe in one of the several public records lawsuits it faces. Bailey-Rihn said she was not attaching punitive damages to the ruling because “I think the people of the state of Wisconsin have been punished enough.”
But the judge was clear about the value of the probe: In its early months, she said, taxpayers paid $11,000 per month for Gableman “to sit in the New Berlin library to learn about election law because he knows nothing about election law.”
‘Some RINOs Have Primary Challengers’
The tension between Vos on the one side and Gableman and Trump on the other spiked when Vos apparently tried to apply some pressure on Gableman to wrap things up.
“I’m getting calls from Speaker Vos’ office asking — telling us that they’re going to pick up our office equipment on April 26,” Gableman complained to Steve Bannon in early April, after a visit with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. “There must be more investigation.” He urged Bannon’s viewers to call Vos’ office and “thank him for his continued support of this office to get to the truth of what happened.”
On April 25, Trump applied his own pressure, all but calling Vos out by name, questioning why anyone would want to “stop” Gableman’s probe: “I understand some RINOs have primary challengers in Wisconsin. I’m sure their primary opponents would get a huge bump in the polls if these RINOs interfere,” he said. Vos extended Gableman’s probe the next day.
Trump wasn’t done, though. Vos said last month that he’d fielded a call from Trump pressuring him to decertify the election — a move that cannot legally happen. Gableman had earlier urged lawmakers “to take a very hard look” at decertifying the election.
For his part, Vos’ challenger Steen spent Monday before Election Day hosting a “Toss Voss” event, in which supporters could launch “a puppet representation of Robin Vos” using an enormous slingshot. Steen spent election night with Jay Stone, a hypnotherapist and influential election conspiracy theorist.