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Wisconsin Assembly leader axes 2020 election investigation after beating Trump-backed primary challenger

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has ended a controversial partisan review of the 2020 election, which he and GOP legislators had funded for the past year, days after Vos defeated a primary challenger.

Vos ended the review and removed the chief investigator, former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, on Friday, after more than a year and over $1 million in spending. On Tuesday, Vos narrowly won his primary over an opponent who had endorsements from both former President Donald Trump and Gableman.

Gableman had faced intense criticism from election experts as well as Democrats in the state for his investigation, which embraced conspiracy theories including advocating for “decertifying” the 2020 election — a fanciful and legally impossible recommendation.

Gableman repeatedly attacked the state election officials and has openly campaigned against Republicans who criticized the probe, including appearing at a rally with Trump in the closing days of the Wisconsin primaries.

“After having many members of our caucus reach out to me over the past several days, it is beyond clear to me that we only have one choice in this matter, and that’s to close the Office of Special Counsel,” Vos said in a statement first provided to the Associated Press, referencing Gableman’s office.

Vos — while saying there were “problems” with the 2020 election — had encouraged Republicans in the state to move past both the election and the investigation into it.

He and Gableman began to split publicly after the former state Supreme Court justice started his “decertification” push. Vos said in an interview with a local TV station that Gableman went “off the rails,” while defending the scope of the probe.

Gablemen spent a considerable amount of time attacking private grants that went to local municipalities in the run-up to the 2020 election. The grants came from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, an elections-focused nonprofit to which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Pricilla Chan donated hundreds of millions of dollars. Several lawsuits ahead of the 2020 election challenged the legality of those grants, but the lawsuits failed.

The now-shuttered GOP investigation in Wisconsin was among the most prominent attempts by Republicans in the country to undermine confidence in the 2020 election results — something Democrats in the state said had gone on too long. The investigation also sparked considerable litigation, with Gableman threatening to seek jail time for local election officials and mayors he deemed to be uncooperative, along with extensive legal battles over access to records from his office.

“This sham investigation should never have started. It’s a shame it took so long for it to come to this pathetic end,” Democratic state Rep. Mark Spreitzer, who publicly clashed with Gableman in a series of hearings, tweeted Friday afternoon.

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