Gableman puts election subpoenas on hold, cancels interviews with clerks and mayors

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- In a major shift, the attorney in charge of a Republican-ordered review of the 2020 election canceled interviews with city election officials and mayors just days after issuing another round of sweeping subpoenas.

Just Wednesday, Michael Gableman, a former Supreme Court Justice hired to investigate the election, asked the mayors of Green Bay, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Madison and Racine to provide "all documents contained in your files and/or in your custody, possession, or control pertaining to the Election". He also compelled those mayors to testify in Brookfield Oct. 22, and previously served subpoenas to the same five cities' election clerks, compelling them to meet with him at the same location Oct. 15.

But in a dramatic shift Thursday, Gableman called officials and told them they will no longer have to meet with him or provide thousands - if not millions - of pages of documents related to the election, according to Michael Hass, city attorney for the city of Madison.

Dr. Mordecai Lee, a professor emeritus at UW-Milwaukee, said Gableman "Recognized it isn't viable. And he recognized he needed to go back to the starting line and start again." But Dr. Lee added, "I think this was just a blip, kind of a false start. And trying to bring it back to what we would consider the legal guardrails of an investigation."

Elections officials in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison and Racine decried the subpoenas for being too vague, for including typos, for wasting time and money and for commanding them to appear behind closed doors in a strip mall in Brookfield. Earlier Thursday the attorney for the city of Milwaukee said it would comply with the demand for documents, despite the lack of clarity.

The initial cost of the investigation into the already-certified election is $686,000 in taxpayer dollars. Of that, Gableman is being paid $11,000 a month. Gableman himself said it's unlikely he'll meet a Republican-projected deadline to complete his report by the end of the month.

Gableman's initial request left election officials scrambling to gather a massive amount of documents, which some officials argued were already posted online for the public to review. Hass tells CBS 58 the reversal is a relief for his staff and IT department, which would have had to produce the documents and then meet with Gableman next week. Now, he says, Gableman is instead asking for materials the officials already have on hand and that previously had been requested through open record requests.

"It's helpful to know for now, they only want records we have compiled and produced," Hass said. "We appreciate the Special Council clarifying what they want and will try and work with them in the future on other requests."

The move comes hours after some city officials called the subpoenas a 'colossal' waste of time and money.

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