Advertisement

Wisconsin Republican leader stands by fake Trump elector, will keep him on elections commission

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The majority leader of the Wisconsin Senate on Monday rejected Democrats' calls to rescind his appointment to the state elections commission, who was one of the Republicans who served as fake electors for former President Donald Trump in 2020.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said in a statement that his appointee Bob Spindell and the other fake electors had invoked a “failed legal strategy” and “not a sinister plot to overturn an election.” For that reason, LeMahieu said he will not rescind his appointment of Spindell to the nonpartisan elections commission.

Spindell was one of 10 Republicans who signed certificates in 2020 falsely stating that Trump had won Wisconsin. President Joe Biden won the battleground state.

Spindell and other nine fake electors conceded in a legal settlement last week that Biden had won the state and agreed to not serve as electors in next year's election or in any in which Trump is running. They also agreed that their actions were “part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results.”

But they also avoided paying any damages and didn't accept any liability or admit any wrongdoing for their actions.

“The civil settlement explicitly states that the plaintiffs acknowledge that the defendants, including Commissioner Spindell, admit no guilt or culpability,” LeMahieu said. “Liberal groups sought millions of dollars in court, and instead walked away with nothing. The Trump electors’ actions were an effort to support an ultimately-failed legal strategy. Not a sinister plot to overturn an election.”

Spindell, who didn't respond to repeated voicemails or text messages seeking comment, is one of three Republicans on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which also has three Democratic members. The commission is tasked with administering the state's elections, but it is Wisconsin's more than 1,800 local election clerks who actually run elections.

On Monday, Wisconsin Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski became the latest Democrat to call for Spindell to lose his seat on the bipartisan elections commission.

“He is clearly not fit," Godlewski said in an interview. "He doesn't have the moral compass or ability to follow the law and he needs to be removed.”

The secretary of state’s office doesn't oversee elections in Wisconsin, but it does receive the certificate of votes from the state’s electors. The office received the fake one from Republicans in 2020 as well as notice of the settlement last week in which Spindell and the others admitted that they had tried to improperly overturn the election results.

“When I receive notification that a public official misled my office, I can’t look the other way,” Godlewski said.

In her letter to LeMahieu, Godlewski cited Spindell's admissions under the legal settlement as reasons to remove him from the commission.

“I find it abhorrent that Election Commissioner Robert Spindell Jr. knowingly submitted a fraudulent election document to Wisconsin’s Secretary of State as part of a larger coordinated effort to overturn the will of the people,” Godlewski wrote to LeMahieu.

Spindell was first appointed to the commission in 2019. LeMahieu reappointed him to a five-year term in 2021. Unless he resigns or is removed from the commission, Spindell will be a member leading up to and after the 2024 presidential election.

Democrats have been calling for Spindell's removal from the commission ever since he served as the fake elector in 2020. There was a surge in calls for his removal last year after he credited Republican tactics in Milwaukee in the 2022 midterm election for depressing turnout from Black and Hispanic voters. Spindell refused to step down then.

Wisconsin Republicans this month introduced a bill that would put the secretary of state's office in charge of elections, but give final authority to the GOP-controlled Legislature. Godlewski said she opposes that bill and does not support putting her office in charge of running elections, and the Democratic governor said he would veto such a change if the bill were to pass.

The current system “has been providing free and fair elections in the state of Wisconsin, and I’m going to continue to support that,” Godlewski said.

Scott Bauer, The Associated Press