Assembly Speaker Robin Vos vowed to fight the thousands of dollars in legal fees awarded to a Washington, D.C.-based group that sought records from Michael Gableman’s review of the 2020 election.
But it is likely that Assembly Republicans will drop Gableman’s effort to jail the mayors of Green Bay and Madison, as well as other local officials, if they didn’t comply with the subpoenas the former justice issued as part of his probe.
Vos told reporters late yesterday afternoon that he wanted to talk to caucus attorneys before making a final decision on that, as well as whether to drop Gableman’s arguments in a suit filed by Josh Kaul. The Dem AG sought to prevent the former justice from questioning Elections Commission Administration Meagan Wolfe in private rather than before a legislative committee.
Vos’ comments to reporters following an off-site caucus came hours after a Dane County judge heard arguments on whether Gableman had done enough to clear a contempt order against him for failing to adequately comply with a court order to provide records to American Oversight. The group has filed a string of suits arguing Gableman and Vos had failed to comply with their record requests. Those suits have resulted in more than $260,000 in legal fees being awarded to the group.
The cost for Gableman’s probe had eclipsed $1 million by late spring, according to a WisPolitics.com tally, including $555,000 for legal bills associated with the various suits filed over Gableman’s work. The attorneys fees are in addition to those costs.
Vos said the Office of Special Counsel still technically exists, though it has no staff. He also ripped Dane County judges that he accused of putting their thumbs on the scale in favor of American Oversight and awarding “outrageous fees to people who really don’t deserve them.”
“I do not think that because we provided all the records they should’ve awarded these hundreds of thousands of dollars in kind of bogus fees to these liberal special interest groups,” Vos said.
American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer said the group was dismayed by Vos’ baseless attacks on the integrity of Wisconsin judges.
In one hearing, Gableman acknowledged destroying records that he didn’t believe were pertinent to his investigation.
“This litigation has revealed the truth: Speaker Vos’ partisan investigation did not uncover widespread fraud and repeatedly misled the public about the 2020 election,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that Speaker Vos launched the investigation in the first place, and then sought to conceal its workings from the public. But to be clear, he has no one to blame but himself.”
Vos had originally planned to use part of the off-site caucus meeting to discuss with members the next steps for Gableman’s review of the 2020 election.
But he fired the former justice on Friday, saying he had heard from enough members to make the decision prior to caucus.
Vos has also suggested yesterday he may remove Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, as Campaigns and Elections chair after she’s been sharply critical of him on several issues. He said Brandtjen remains the chair for now, though he hadn’t made a decision on whether she will remain in the position.
Vos said GOP AG nominee Eric Toney, the Fond du Lac County DA, met with the caucus. Vos also spoke positively of guv nominee Tim Michels after he had backed former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in the primary.
Vos said one message of yesterday’s caucus was to come together as Republicans with the primary behind them. Vos survived a primary challenge from Adam Steen, a self-employed investor who lives in Sturtevant, by 260 votes. Steen was backed by Donald Trump.
“Now we need to focus on where the differences really are,” Vos said. “They’re not the minute differences of where someone in the Republican Party is. They’re really differences on where Tony Evers and liberal Democrats want to take the state.”
Vos also said he began to lose confidence in Gableman after the former justice presented a report on his findings in March. WisPolitics.com first reported that the draft Gableman gave Vos’ office ahead of his public testimony didn’t include a section that suggested a path for lawmakers to look at decertifying the 2020 election. The report Gableman presented to the committee included that section, and he urged lawmakers to take a “hard” look at the option.
Vos noted after Gableman’s testimony, the former justice wrote a separate memo to Vos suggesting decertification wasn’t possible. He suggested at some point someone “got to” Gableman on the issue.
“At that point, it really became clear that he was looking for something else besides the truth,” Vos said.
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