The special investigator hired by Wisconsin Republicans to review the 2020 election told lawmakers in March that they should consider certifying President Joe Biden’s victory, but later said in a private memo released Tuesday that a such a move would be “practically impossible”.
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gambleman was hired by Republican Speaker of the House Robin Voss in June 2021 to investigate Donald Trump’s Wisconsin loss. Vos hired Gableman under intense pressure from Trump and others who falsely believe the election was stolen by the former president.
Gableman’s interim report, released March 1, said lawmakers should “take a very careful look” at validating Biden’s victory by removing Wisconsin’s 10 Electoral College votes. Vos and other Republican leaders, backed by a wide range of legal experts, have said the move was unconstitutional and would not be pursued.
It turns out that Gableman himself wrote to Vos two weeks after his report was issued to say that decertification was impossible.
“While decertification of the 2020 presidential election is theoretically possible, it is unprecedented and raises numerous substantive constitutional issues that would be difficult to resolve. Thus, the legal obstacles to achieving it make such an outcome practically impossible,” Gableman wrote to Vos on March 16.
Gableman further predicted that the matter would “be tied up in court for years and virtually paralyze the Legislature for all other business, and there is no possibility of anything but a de facto full-time program for election lawyers.”
The email was obtained by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight under Wisconsin’s open records law and provided by the group to The Associated Press. The Washington Post first reported on the memo on Tuesday.
Vos and Gableman did not return messages seeking comment.
Gableman’s view, as expressed in the memo, contradicts what he said publicly and in the report about the decertification. But his attorney, James Bopp, took a similar stance to Gableman when he spoke to lawmakers eight days after the memo was drafted, calling the decertification “pointless.”
Biden beat Trump by nearly 21,000 votes in Wisconsin, a result that withstood two partial recounts, multiple lawsuits, a nonpartisan audit and a review by a conservative law firm. Even Gableman’s own report found no evidence to overturn Biden’s victory.
Gableman’s criticism has cost taxpayers more than $1.1 million. Last week, two different judges awarded lawyers for American Oversight about $260,000 in legal fees in open records cases they have brought and won against Gableman and Vos.
Vos suspended Gableman’s review in May pending the outcome of those and other lawsuits, including one filed by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul seeking to block election officials from testifying against Gableman in person.
The decertification debate has not stopped in Wisconsin, fueled in large part by Trump, who has continued to push Vos to do so. Voss has repeatedly said he won’t. State Rep. Tim Ramthun, who is running for governor, is pushing for decertification and is supported by state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, who chairs the Assembly Elections Committee.
Ramthun is circulating a resolution calling on the legislature to withdraw electoral votes, but he delayed introducing it for three weeks after gaining only two co-sponsors.
Trump’s endorsed candidate for governor, construction company co-owner Tim Michels, was asked Monday night if he would seek decertification. After previously saying it wasn’t a priority, Michels said he would look at all the evidence of what happened in the 2020 election and “everything will be on the table.”
Former Lt. Gen. Rebecca Kleefisch, who polls show is close to Michels, said she would not seek decertification because “it’s not constitutionally possible.”
The winner of the primary will face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has vetoed several GOP measures designed to make absentee voting more difficult.
Vos is being challenged in the August 9 primary by Adam Steen, who supports decertification. Trump, who will be in Wisconsin on Friday, said Sunday that he is “seriously considering” endorsing Steen in the race.