MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) — The leader of the Republican Assembly in Wisconsin ended a 14-month, taxpayer-funded investigation on Friday into the 2020 elections by firing his hand-picked investigator. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ resignation of Michael Gableman came just three days after the lawmaker narrowly survived a primary challenge from an opponent backed by former President Donald Trump and Gableman.
While 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, according to Vos and jurists, is unconstitutional and impossible.
Vos announced the investigation last year under pressure from Trump and chose Gableman, a conservative former Supreme Court justice, to lead it. But as the investigation progressed, Vos’s relationship with both Gableman and Trump soured.
When he hired Gableman, Vos said he was “extremely confident” of his abilities. On Tuesday evening, Vos called him a “humiliation.”
“After many members of our caucus have contacted me in 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 special counsel’s office,” Vos said in a statement on Friday. statement first issued to The Associated Press.
Gableman, who has repeated Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election has been “stolen,” has said Vos “never wanted a real investigation.” He and his attorney, James Bopp, did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.
His investigation had aroused bipartisan contempt, and his dismissal generated bipartisan praise.
Democratic Governor Tony Evers has been highly critical of Gableman and the probe. Spokesperson Britt Cudaback responded with one word: “Finally.”
“It was a good decision. It would have been a better decision six months ago,” Republican State Senator Kathy Bernier, chair of the Senate Election Commission, said, adding that she has “zero respect for Michael Gableman.”
Vos had repeatedly said that the purpose of the investigation was not to nullify the 2020 election, a move Gableman acknowledged in a private memo to Vos was impossible. Even Gableman’s attorney, Bopp, told lawmakers: that decertification was “pointless”.
Vos said people who are constantly concerned about the integrity of the election should focus on beating Evers, who vetoed changes the Republicans wanted. Republican governor Tim Michels supports the dissolution of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission and has said he would have signed the bills Evers rejected.
Michels’ adviser Chris Walker declined to comment on Gableman’s resignation.
Vos hired Gableman to quell 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, an outcome that has survived lawsuits, recounts, reviews and audits, in addition to Gableman’s own investigation.
Unhappy with the way he was treated by Vos, Gableman’s public criticism of the speaker increased, as did Trump’s. In April, Gableman called for pressure on Vos to renew the former judge’s contract. Vos did – albeit with a pay cut from his initial $11,000 a month. Vos puts the investigation on hold in May, pending the resolution of pending lawsuits.
Their relationship reached a tipping point when both Trump and Gableman endorsed Fox’s main opponent, leading to a tighter-than-expected race. Vos ended with a victory of 260 votes. Vos said his victory showed that lawmakers “don’t have to be lapdogs for whatever Donald Trump says”.
Gableman also faces legal problems.
On Tuesday, a judge was ordered to determine whether Gableman remains in contempt of court for failing to comply with the state’s open records law. Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington has forwarded his contempt warrant to the commission that chastises attorneys for possible further action, including suspending or repealing Gableman’s law.
That is one of six pending lawsuits related to the investigation.
The awarded attorneys’ fees has so far resulted in a total of $1.1 million for Gableman’s investigation, all paid for by taxpayers.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said he was glad Vos had decided to end what he called a “colossal waste of tax dollars promoting the Big Lie.”
“What we knew before this began remains true today: Our elections are free, fair and secure, and the results of our elections reflect the will of the voters,” said Kaul, who has a pending lawsuit against Gableman.
Gableman has used the probe to raise his national profile. He offered the prayer at Trump’s Wisconsin rally this month and has been a regular on conservative talk radio, including an appearance denigrating how Wisconsin’s main election dresses.
Gableman has also been criticized for sparse expense reports, confusing emails, meeting conspiracy theorists, including MyPillow director Mike Lindell, and making rudimentary mistakes, including multiple spelling mistakes. For example, in records released during the lawsuits, Gableman and his team routinely misspelled Vos as “Voss.”
sen. Melissa Agard, the Democratic state, said it was “past time” for Gableman to be fired.
“I’m glad Speaker Vos has stopped the bleeding because these tax dollars are going to a bogus investigation,” she added.