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Effort to force vote on impeaching elections chief goes nowhere in Wisconsin Assembly

GOP leaders did not recognize attempts by Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, to bring a motion to impeach Meagan Wolfe to the floor during Tuesday's Assembly session

Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, rises in an attempt to bring impeachment papers against Wisconsin’s chief election administrator, Meagan Wolfe, to the floor of the Wisconsin State Assembly on Tuesday, Jan. 16. Anya van Wagtendonk/WPR

A state lawmaker and close ally of former President Donald Trump shouted repeatedly for recognition in the state Assembly Tuesday in an attempt to force a vote on impeaching Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s chief elections administrator.

Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, rose on the floor of the Wisconsin State Assembly throughout Tuesday afternoon, calling for recognition from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester. She was ruled out of order early in the session, and her subsequent calls were not responded to. The day adjourned with the bang of a gavel, as Brandtjen called out one more time.

In a brief interview after Tuesday’s session, Brandtjen told WPR that she plans to continue pushing to bring articles of impeachment against Wolfe to the floor for a vote.

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“Certainly,” she said. “Through the end of session.”

It was the latest example of GOP leaders distancing themselves from an attempt by a small bloc of Assembly Republicans to impeach Wolfe, who has been a target of conspiracy theories related to the 2020 election.

A longtime champion of Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Brandtjen and four other Republicans in the Assembly introduced a resolution November alleging that Wolfe promoted illegal election behavior. Wolfe has said those claims “willfully distort the truth.”

Brandjen’s attempt to bring that resolution to a vote via an uncommon procedural move comes days after a circuit court judge ruled that a September vote in the state Senate to fire Wolfe had no standing, and weeks after Vos said that while he does not back Wolfe in her role, he also does not support the impeachment effort.

Vos did not respond to a request for comment.

Brandtjen and Vos have clashed in the past over the GOP leader’s refusal to decertify the results of the 2020 election, in which President Joe Biden narrowly won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes.

The results of that election have been upheld by multiple investigations. Lawsuits challenging Wisconsin’s results, in both state and federal courts, were either thrown out or ruled in favor of a Biden victory.

Brandtjen, one of the state’s chief promoters of claims of election fraud, pushed to have those results decertified. She has enjoyed an ongoing alliance with Trump, who endorsed her failed bid for state Senate.

After Vos — who ordered a failed investigation by former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman into the 2020 election — did not support decertification, some of his critics on the right mounted a primary challenge for his Assembly seat in 2022. They came within just a few hundred votes of succeeding. Brandtjen backed Vos’ opponent and was later removed from a leadership position chairing the Assembly Elections Committee.

Last week, some of those same critics launched an effort to recall Vos from his Assembly seat.

Tuesday’s Assembly session was just the latest event in a battle over Wolfe’s position, which began last summer. At heart was the question of whether she was eligible to stay in her position after her term expired.

In September, Republicans in the Senate voted unanimously to oust Wolfe, with some saying she had lost the faith of the voting public.

Attorney General Josh Kaul filed suit after that vote, saying the Senate’s action was illegal and that state court precedent says officials can stay in office after the expiration of their terms.

On Friday, Dane County Circuit Judge Ann Peacock ruled in favor of that argument, finding that Wolfe is lawfully in her seat.