Senate GOP leader doesn't rule out impeachment

NOW: Senate GOP leader doesn’t rule out impeachment

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Republican leader of the state Senate is not ruling out impeaching the newly-elected state Supreme Court Justice Protasiewicz after downplaying the idea of removing government officials from office.

Shortly after liberal Justice Protasiewicz was elected, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) didn't seem interested in using the Senate's impeachment powers unless "something very serious" occurred.

When CBS 58 asked the Republican leader whether he's changed his mind after discussing impeachment with his caucus, LeMahieu didn't rule out the possibility.

"We have a justice that has prejudged a case. She said the maps are rigged and she took $10 million from the state Democratic Party," said LeMahieu.

If Protasiewicz doesn't recuse herself from cases involving the state's political maps, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has threatened to impeach her. The Assembly can vote to impeach and then it moves on to the Senate where they hold a trial.

LeMahieu said he's waiting to see if Protasiewicz will recuse herself from redistricting cases when asked if he would impeach Protasiewicz if the Assembly voted to begin the process.

"We need to know if she will rescue herself," he said. "That should be the story. That she's biased, she's prejudged the case and she needs to step up and not be a part of this because she's said the maps are rigged and she's bought and paid for by the Democratic Party."

Republicans have blasted Protasiewicz for calling the legislative maps unfair and argue she can't be impartial because she accepted $10 million from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

However, other sitting justices have accepted campaign cash from the state Republican Party including Justice Brian Hagedorn and Justice Rebecca Bradley.

Assembly Minority Leader Tyler August tried to argue there's a difference.

"I think in this specific situation, she's clearly prejudged a case," August said. " We're talking about this case, this justice."

The talk of removing Protasiewicz before she's even heard a case comes as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin launched a $4 million campaign to try and pressure Republicans to back down from impeachment.

"Republican leaders need to get smart and stop this," said Joe Zepecki, a Democratic strategist. "The people of Wisconsin overwhelmingly elected Protasiewicz and it will have political ramifications if they go ahead with it."

Typically, impeachment proceedings are "based on specific reasons: corrupt conduct in office or for the commission of a crime or misdemeanor," according to a memo by the Wisconsin Legislative Council.

Republicans could also try "removal by address" which is based on building an impeachment case around misconduct issues.

No one has ever been impeached and convicted in Wisconsin. If successful, Gov. Tony Evers would have the power to appoint a new justice to serve if someone is removed from office.

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