MILWAUKEE --Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday that he wanted Wisconsin justice officials to file a lawsuit against President Barack Obama's executive action that expands background checks for gun sales.
"Executive actions are one thing - federal laws and the federal constitution allow for the president to do that, just like state law allows me to issue executive actions," Walker said, "but only within the parameters of the law, and not in violation of the Constitution. That’s really what we think he’s done."
Walker made the comments during a wide-ranging interview with FOX6 News that included the possibility of Walker running for a third term, his concerns about the Republican presidential field, and his defense of the state's Corrections secretary despite abuse cases at a state-run facility for juvenile offenders.
Walker has asked Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel to review the president's executive actions for a possible legal challenge. Schimel said Wednesday that process is underway.
Walker left the presidential race Sept. 21 after his high-flying campaign suddenly sank amid poor debate performances, a lack of fundraising, and bloated staff salaries. He has generally declined to discuss the race since, and had not granted one-on-one interview requests from Wisconsin TV stations.
Thursday, he said he may not endorse any of his former rivals in the presidential race. Any endorsement wouldn't come until right before Wisconsin's primary on April 5, "so it would have an impact on Wisconsin," Walker said.
"A lot of it depends on what I see between now and then," he added.
Walker said Thursday that he remained frustrated by what he saw as the national media's "obsession" with businessman Donald Trump.
"If I had it to do over again, I’d win. But I didn’t see a pathway to doing that," Walker said. "We saw so much attention from the national media on (Trump) — that largely hasn’t changed since then — so what we observed then, unfortunately, is still pretty accurate today."
Walker's approval rating fell dramatically in 2015 during his failed presidential bid. A November survey conducted by Marquette Law School revealed that 38 percent of people approved of Walker's job performance.
Walker said he is considering running for a third term as Wisconsin governor in 2018, adding that he planned to think about the possibility throughout the upcoming year.
The Legislature's Republican majority had lower numbers, with only 31 percent approval, while legislative Democrats had 39 percent approval.
"One of the best things we can do is go around the state listening to people," Walker said. "If we spend the time this year doing that, and then take action after that, it shows it’s not just my agenda or a Republican agenda, we’re acting on things that people all around the state are asking for."
Lincoln Hills allegations
Walker said he expected criminal charges to be filed in light of documented abuse cases at Lincoln Hills School, a facility for juvenile offenders in Wisconsin's Northwoods.
The facility's superintendent and the state's juvenile corrections director have been fired in the wake of the scandal. Yet Walker defended Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall, who was appointed to his position by the governor, when asked if Wall should also be fired.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was first to report that Wall visited Lincoln Hills in August 2015, four months before the most serious abuse allegations became public but several months after whistleblowers first notified Walker's office of trouble at the facility.
Some staffers were fired in an initial wave of scrutiny in 2014 before the DOC asked the Lincoln County sheriff to launch an investigation.
The probe ultimately reached the state Department of Justice, which uncovered major violations. In one case, a young inmate had to have his toes amputated after a staffer slammed a door into his body.
"Hindsight’s 20/20," Walker said. "People have the benefit of looking back and saying, 'Well, they should’ve looked at other things.' It wasn’t until late this past year, in 2015, that the Department of Justice raised concerns, and it was broader than that (in 2014). Clearly, there’s nothing that we can see that there were those sorts of concerns late in the summer, when the secretary and some of the senior leadership was up there."
Walker said legislative Democrats were creating "smoke screens" by offering bills that would increase staffing levels at Lincoln Hills The real problem was not a staff shortage, but that workers "committed acts that appear to have violated the law," Walker said.