By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The highest ranking Republican in the Wisconsin Assembly said Friday that he was expanding a probe into the 2020 presidential election, saying it will take more investigators and time than originally planned.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos signed contracts in June with two retired police detectives and a former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice to handle the investigation. But amid growing calls from former President Donald Trump and other Wisconsin Republicans for a broader audit, Vos on Friday said he was expanding the probe.
He announced the move just three days after he said a fellow Republican lawmaker who was calling for a “forensic audit” was misinformed about the work already underway.
“It has become clear that a top-to-bottom investigation will take longer than initially anticipated and will require more manpower to complete,” Vos said in a statement Friday.
Vos said he was declaring former Justice Michael Gableman a “special counsel” and giving him the authority to hire more full-time investigators. Vos did not immediately respond to requests for additional details on how much the investigation, which is being paid for by taxpayers, would cost.
The original contracts called for spending about $72,000 through September on the investigation. Vos had wanted to hire three former police detectives, but only signed contracts with two. It wasn’t immediately clear what they had been doing to date. As of Tuesday, they had not contacted either the Wisconsin Elections Commission or the Dane County Clerk’s office, both agencies told The Associated Press in response to an open records request.
“After talking with our original investigative team, we realize that the part-time nature of these contracts is less time than is needed to complete the investigation,” Vos said. “Justice Gableman will have the resources and ability to determine the need for any future adjustments.”
Vos said he hoped to complete the work in the fall, around the same time that the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau completes its review that was ordered by the Republican Legislature. Vos has called their review a “multi-faceted forensic audit” even as he’s faced pressure from Trump and the Republican chair of the Assembly elections committee to do a review more similar to the widely discredited one done in Arizona.
President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by just over 20,000 votes. There is no evidence of widespread fraud and courts rejected numerous lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies attempting to overturn the outcome. Democrats have derided calls for more investigations as feeding into conspiracy theories and lies that Trump actually won the state.
Trump last month called out Vos and two other Republican legislative leaders, saying they were “working hard to cover up election corruption.” Vos and the other Wisconsin Republicans said Trump was misinformed.
There are almost no documented cases of election fraud in Wisconsin.
Two people have been charged with election fraud out of more than 3 million votes cast in the state, and prosecutors are still reviewing a handful of other cases that were among 27 forwarded to them by elections officials. Similarly, very few potential voter fraud cases have been identified in Arizona, where the type of audit envisioned by Brandtjen was conducted.