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Trump targets top Wisconsin GOP lawmaker for failing to call off election

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WAUKESHA, Wis. – A year ago this month, Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) sat on a private plane with Donald Trump and updated the former president on the investigation he launched into the 2020 election, even though there was no evidence of widespread fraud.

Since then, Trump has repeatedly pressured Vos — privately and publicly — to find a way to overturn the election results, which the state legislator has declared impossible and illegal. Wisconsin’s 2020 results still stand, showing Joe Biden winning Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes.

The alliance between the two ended Friday night as Trump held a rally in suburban Milwaukee and urged his supporters to vote for Vos’ challenger Adam Steen in Tuesday’s primary.

“Adam Steen is running to defeat your Robin Vos House RINO speaker,” Trump said, using the acronym “Republican in Name Only.” “Despite undeniable evidence of rigging and fraud, Chairman Vos took no action to hold the Wisconsin Elections Commission to account, clean up the voter rolls, or right any of the other terrible wrongs.”

Despite the president’s claim about voting irregularities, a nonpartisan legislative audit and review by a conservative group found no evidence of significant voter fraud in the state.

Trump formally endorsed Steen on Tuesday after weeks of threats to do so as he urged Vos to act, particularly after the state Supreme Court ruled on July 8 that most mail-in ballot boxes in the Wisconsin were illegal. The decision concerns future elections, not the one Trump lost in 2020, but the former president and some of his allies saw it as another opportunity to challenge Biden’s victory.

Shortly after that decision, Vos told a Milwaukee news outlet that he had received a call from Trump urging him to rescind the results, which Vos said is “unconstitutionally not allowed.” Trump then falsely accused the speaker on social media of spoiling “a brilliant and courageous decision by Wisconsin’s highest court” and letting Democrats “get away with ‘murder’.”

“Now is not the time for him to hide, but the time to act! Trump wrote. “I don’t know his opponent in the next Primary, but I’m sure he’ll be fine if Speaker Vos doesn’t move enthusiastically.”

A week later, after Vos had not budged on the issue, Trump endorsed Steen in a lengthy statement that complained that Vos had used his photo with Trump in his primary campaign. Trump claimed Vos “refused to do anything to right the wrongs that were done” in the 2020 election. Steen focused his campaign on decertifying the 2020 results, banning voting machines and the end of most early and mail-in voting. Steen also called for a ban on birth control.

Vos maintained its decision not to pursue decertification.

“My opponent and those who support him continue to focus on the extreme and unconstitutional idea that we can cancel the 2020 election,” Vos said in a statement late Friday. “As they campaign on the impossible, I will remain focused on the Conservative principles of fighting for lower taxes, enacting real electoral reform, holding criminals accountable and giving parents more control over education. of their children.”

Hours before Trump took the stage to promote Tim Michels, his choice in the Republican gubernatorial primary, Steen addressed the crowd and asked attendees to help him knock on doors this weekend so that he can defeat Vos. Until Trump granted his endorsement, Steen had attracted little attention. In 2018, he received about 10% of the vote in a six-party Republican primary to replace Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan when Ryan decided not to seek another term.

“There is only one road to free and fair elections in Wisconsin, and that road runs through the 63rd Assembly District,” Steen told a crowd that grew and far from be inflamed by his remarks. “There is a massive roadblock in 63rd, and it needs to be removed from power. Does anyone know who it is? Some call him a RINO, others a traitor. I am partial to the latter. Whatever you call it, it’s time to do one thing on August 9th. It’s time to throw Vos.

The warm-up acts provided the crowd with a who’s who of Wisconsin’s leading conspiracy theory spreaders and deniers.

There was State Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R), the chairwoman of an Assembly committee that held public hearings featuring election conspiracy theorists. Brandtjen this week endorsed Steen even though it was Vos who named her president. She risks losing this position if Vos wins her primary.

“God bless Wisconsin, Donald Trump, and most importantly the fighting patriots!” Brandtjen told the crowd.

The rally’s invocation came from former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, whom Vos hired last summer to oversee the election review — a hire announced a day after Trump criticized Vos. and other legislative leaders as not doing enough to review the 2020 results.

“We thank you for the courage and wisdom of our 45th President, Donald J. Trump, who more than any other President in our nation’s history is responsible for putting our nation back on the path to protection. [life] and the national culture of life and rejecting the miserable, cowardly and callous culture of death,” Gableman said in prayer.

Gableman and Vos occasionally clashed. In March, Gableman told lawmakers they should consider decertifying the election, but two weeks later he sent Vos a private note dropping the idea as a “practical impossibility.” In April, Gableman appeared at a rally on the steps of the state Capitol, along with Steen, who called Vos a traitor. The following month, Vos cut Gableman’s salary in half and suspended his review of the election while the courts wrangled over the investigation.

Trump has twice said that Gableman endorses Steen even though Gableman made no such announcement. After the speech, Gableman declined to say if it was true, and Steen said Gableman gave him the news on Thursday.

Steen said the endorsement could be risky for Gableman because Vos is the one who hired him and could cut his salary.

“I’ve said many times that I’m willing to give up everything I have for this election, and that’s so important because Judge Gableman is in the same place,” he said.

Trump’s visit to Wisconsin came a week after conservative activist Harry Wait announced he had used a state website to have a mail-in ballot for Vos mailed to his home. Wait said he knew ordering the ballot was a crime, but wanted to expose what he sees as a vulnerability in the state’s online ballot application form.

Wait said Trump’s team asked him to attend the rally, but revoked the invitation when he said he wanted to bring state Rep. Tim Ramthun (R) as a guest . Ramthun, another gubernatorial candidate, was the most vocal state official calling for decertification.

Former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R) is also in the running. The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Gov. Tony Evers (D) in November.

Many in the crowd were there to see Trump — not the candidates he endorsed. There was a strong out-of-state contingent, and even some Wisconsin residents said they didn’t know who Vos was, even though he’s been in the job for 18 years and has been a speaker for a decade.

Scott Godden, who works in health care, said he backed Trump in 2016 and 2020 and came to Friday’s rally to help him decide who to back in the primary for the job of governor. Godden lives in the Milwaukee suburb of Mequon, about 80 miles from the Vos district.

He didn’t know Vos or Steen, but said he assumed Steen’s endorsement of Trump would help him. He didn’t think it was unusual for Trump to fit into a primary race for state legislature.

“It’s Donald Trump – nothing surprises me. I mean, he could pick the most obscure town clerk in Ashwaubenon to support – and that’s Donald Trump,” he said, referring to a suburb of Green Bay. “It’s theater, and we like good theater. All Americans, I think, do it.”



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