Trump-backed Republican kicked out of Wis. Assembly caucus

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican chair of the Wisconsin Assembly elections committee who was backed by former President Donald Trump, embraced conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and wanted to decertify President Joe Biden's victory, has been kicked out of the closed GOP caucus because her colleagues don't trust her, according to a letter sent to the lawmaker.

State Rep. Janel Brandtjen’s expulsion from the caucus comes after Republicans failed to win a supermajority in the Assembly and Trump’s endorsed candidate for governor lost to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in the swing state.

The letter, first obtained by WisPolitics.com, was sent to Brandtjen on Friday, just a day after Republicans met in private to vote on their leaders for the upcoming session. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was reelected to his post. Brandtjen endorsed and campaigned for his Republican opponent, Adam Steen, who was also backed by Trump.

“The continual issues from the past have led our caucus to lose trust in you,” state Rep. Rob Summerfeld, the Assembly GOP caucus co-chair, said in the letter telling Brandtjen she would no longer be allowed to attend the caucus. “For this reason, this vote was taken.”

Brandtjen, in a statement, called the action against her “petty.”

“Removing me from caucus will not stop the ongoing voting issues that plague our state, but it does prove that many members of the caucus are willing to ignore their constituents to stay in good standing with caucus leadership and keep their committee chairmanships,” she said.

Vos declined to elaborate Thursday on why Brandtjen was kicked out.

“It was closed caucus," Vos said. “I think the letter speaks for itself.”

Republicans discuss strategy and other issues in the closed caucus meetings that Brandtjen now will no longer attend. Committee assignments, including who will chair the elections committee, are expected to be released in the coming weeks. Brandtjen will almost certainly no longer head the committee.

Republicans will hold a 64-35 majority in the next session, just two votes short of a supermajority needed to override vetoes. But all it takes is 50 votes to pass a bill, meaning Republicans could pass legislation even without the support of 14 representatives.

Brandtjen, of Menomonee Falls, was first elected to the Assembly in 2014. Since Trump's 2020 election loss in Wisconsin, she has been one of the most vocal proponents of election conspiracy theories, holding hearings and inviting in speakers who have pushed lies about that election.

Brandtjen also co-signed a resolution attempting to decertify Biden's 2020 win, a move that Vos opposed and that attorneys on both sides said was unconstitutional and impossible under state law. Biden's nearly 21,000-vote victory over Trump has withstood multiple reviews, a nonpartisan audit, dozens of lawsuits and two partial recounts.

She was one of the biggest advocates for the election investigation led by Michael Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice hired by Vos to look into the 2020 election. Gableman's investigation was ridiculed by Republicans and Democrats alike, and Vos fired Gableman in August calling him an “embarrassment" to himself and the state.

Brandtjen was endorsed by Trump this summer. He called her “the most courageous member of the Assembly” and praised her for investigating the 2020 election. Trump on Tuesday announced he was running for president again in 2024.

Both Trump and Brandtjen backed the Republican Steen in his challenge to Vos. Steen narrowly lost in the primary and failed to knock off Vos as a write-in candidate last week.