Former President Donald Trump wraps up a campaign rally at the Kenosha Regional Airport on November 02, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images)
Wisconsin Republicans are extending the taxpayer-funded contract of the man behind a partisan and widely debunked election “audit” following threats by former President Donald Trump that they do so—or else.Wisconsin GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced Tuesday afternoon that he’ll continue to fund the office of former state Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman even though his contract had expired and Gableman’s work appeared to be complete.
“The Office of Special Counsel will remain open as we guarantee the legal power of our legislative subpoenas and get through the other lawsuits that have gridlocked this investigation,” Vos announced Tuesday afternoon.Vos’ announcement came just a day after Trump implicitly threatened to help boost Vos’ primary challenger if he didn’t keep funding Gableman’s work.“Anyone calling themselves a Republican in Wisconsin should support the continued investigation in Wisconsin without interference. After all of the evidence the report brought to light, how could anyone want to stop it?” Trump said in a Monday statement. “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.”Trump’s warning was his latest successful attempt to bully Vos into pushing along the audit, which he began as a way to try to appease the pro-Trump GOP base after Vos refused to try to block the certification of the 2020 election. But Gableman’s “investigation” has morphed into a never-ending attempt to discredit the 2020 election. And Vos and other establishment-leaning Wisconsin GOP politicians have found out the hard way that Trump and his base will only be appeased by total capitulation.That’s led to a meltdown within the Wisconsin GOP, with hard-line pro-Trumpers demanding that Vos and others do their bidding—and Trump threatening to step in every time Vos drags his feet.
Vos made it clear this dynamic had happened again, stating that he was negotiating with Gableman to continue his contract at a lower cost while disputing claims from hard-line pro-Trump conspiracist and GOP state Rep. Janel Brandtjen that he was refusing to commit to continue funding Gableman’s investigation. Wisconsin taxpayers have already had to shell out $680,000 for the partisan audit, and this contract extension means more taxpayer money down the drain.Gableman has failed to prove any malfeasance in the 2020 election despite months of investigation. But that hasn’t stopped him from pushing Trump’s election lies.When Gableman released his election report in early March, he claimed that the Legislature “ought to take a very hard look at the option of decertification” of the 2020 election, bolstering Trump’s pipe dream that he could still somehow reverse the 2020 results. That’s not a legal option—even Gableman’s own attorney testified in late March that it would be “pointless” to try.Vos has already been found in contempt of court by a state judge for refusing to publicly release records from the investigation, while Gableman faces a June 10 hearing in front of a different judge to determine whether he’ll be held in contempt as well.But it’s clear that Vos is more scared of what Trump could do to his political career than state judges.