As Biden woos Wisconsin, Trump picks a fight with local Republicans.

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U.S.|As Biden woos Wisconsin, Trump picks a fight with local Republicans.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/29/us/as-biden-woos-wisconsin-trump-picks-a-fight-with-local-republicans.html

President Biden won Wisconsin by 20,682 votes out of about 3.3 million cast last year.
Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Reid J. Epstein

June 29, 2021Updated 8:50 p.m. ET

President Biden returns to Wisconsin on Tuesday. His predecessor has never really left.

Wisconsin Republicans have already gone to great lengths to challenge the 2020 election results. They ordered a monthslong government audit of votes in the state. They made a pilgrimage to Arizona to observe the G.O.P. review of votes there. They hired former police officers to investigate Wisconsin’s election and its results.

And they have followed the lead of other G.O.P.-controlled states in passing a raft of new voting restrictions, though they are certain to be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat.

It is not enough for former President Donald J. Trump. He wants state party officials to take more dramatic action.

In a blistering statement last week on the eve of the Wisconsin Republican Party’s convention, he accused top Republican state lawmakers of “working hard to cover up election corruption” and “actively trying to prevent a Forensic Audit of the election results.”

Wisconsin Republicans were alarmed and confused. Some circulated a resolution at the convention calling for the resignation of the top Republican in the State Assembly, Speaker Robin Vos, who in turn announced the appointment of a hard-line conservative former State Supreme Court justice to oversee the investigation.

In reply, the Republican State Senate president released a two-page letter to Mr. Trump that said his claims about Republicans were false — but that made sure to clarify, in fawning language, the state party’s allegiance to the former president.

“The power of your pen to mine is like Thor’s hammer to a bobby pin,” the Senate president, Chris Kapenga, wrote.

It was all a vivid illustration of Mr. Trump’s domineering grip on the Republican Party, and of his success in enlisting officials up and down its hierarchy in his extraordinary assault on the legitimacy of the last presidential election — and his capacity to sow chaos in his own ranks on a whim.

Last weekend’s state convention, a typically sleepy off-year gathering, was instead dominated by Mr. Trump’s accusation that Republican leaders themselves were complicit in election wrongdoing, putting party officials in the uncomfortable position of resisting some of his demands while professing undying loyalty.

In his otherwise ingratiating two-page letter, Mr. Kapenga, the State Senate president, pushed back forcefully on Mr. Trump’s claim that Mr. Kapenga was helping to inhibit an audit of the election.

“It is false, and I don’t appreciate it being done before calling me and finding out the truth,” he wrote.

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Vos expressed his loyalty to Mr. Trump but argued that the former president is not a permanent fixture in Republican politics.

“I supported 95 percent of what Donald Trump did as president, right, which is as high as anybody could ever ask for because nobody’s perfect,” Mr. Vos said. “I’m not going to say the conservative movement lives or dies on whether or not Donald Trump is in the White House.”

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