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Vos on decision to demote Brandtjen: 'She's unqualified to have the job'

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Speaker Robin Vos Blasts Rep. Janel Brandtjen.jpg

MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin's most powerful lawmaker did not mince words when explaining his decision to strip a fellow Republican of her role leading the Assembly's elections committee.

When Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) released committee assignments for the upcoming 2023-24 session, the most noticeable change involved Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls). Brandtjen went from chairing the election committee to being removed altogether.

Brandtjen had drawn criticism from lawmakers in both parties as she used the committee as a platform for conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and even issued subpoenas to local election officials that appeared to include language lifted from similar subpoena efforts in other swing states.

Vos said the last straw was Assembly Republicans kicking Brandtjen out of private caucus meetings, citing a lack of trust.

"She's unqualified to have the job any longer," Vos said in an interview. "I mean, I think she abrogated the trust that we put in the caucus to her. When the caucus voted to say that she could no longer be trusted, that usually means you're not trusted to lead a committee."

Vos appointed Brandtjen to lead the elections committee two years ago. He also hired former supreme court justice Michael Gableman to lead an Assembly GOP review of the 2020 election.

The investigation, and associated lawsuits tied to Gableman's insistence on question election officials behind closed doors, cost taxpayers more than $1.5 million.

Vos terminated Gableman's contract after he, and Brandtjen, both endorsed Adam Steen in his effort to beat Vos in the GOP primary for Vos' Racine County district in August.

Vos said he believed his handling of the primary was a display of resolve, as he refused to heed calls from Brandtjen, Gableman, and even former President Donald Trump, who pressured Vos into overturning Wisconsin's 2020 results. Both legal scholars and the Assembly's own lawyers said such an effort was impossible and illegal.

"Janel had a habit, instead of focusing on what we could get done, she focused on things that clearly were outside our purview," Vos said. "Thinking that we were gonna overturn the election when that's clearly unconstitutional, thinking we were somehow going to go back and relitigate 2020? That made her unfit and unqualified."

Brandtjen's office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Her office issued a statement on December 19, blasting Vos after the announcement of new committee assignments.

“It certainly is no surprise to anyone that Robin Vos did not re-appoint me as chair of the Campaigns and Elections Committee," Brandtjen's statement said. "Vos is not only known for his vindictive nature, but he also seems to have a vested interest in sweeping election concerns under the rug."

After Vos was pressured by Trump to overturn the election, the January 6 House committee deposed Vos. The committee has released numerous transcripts of interviews it conducted but hasn't posted files from its meeting with Vos.

While the committee has referred Trump to the U.S. Department of Justice for criminal charges related to the attack on the U.S. Capitol and fake Republican elector scheme, Vos said he didn't know whether Trump had committed any crimes in connection to the 2020 election.

"I have no idea. I mean, I do think the January 6 commission is a big witch trial," Vos said. "They didn't really do very much, other than try to make it into a political circus."

Capitol Bureau Chief