Gableman's subpoenas upheld for now, months-long election review continues
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Dane County judge will allow Michael Gableman's subpoenas seeking private interviews with election officials to stand in part of his month-long investigation into the 2020 presidential election.
Dane County Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford issued the decision on Monday, which denies Attorney General Josh Kaul's request for a restraining order to block a subpoena demanding the administrator of the state elections commission, Meagan Wolfe, to meet for a private interview.
Gableman's attorneys in court sought to dismiss the case, arguing his contract, signed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, allows Gableman to issue subpoenas for his investigation. Lanford also declined their motion to dismiss, in her ruling Monday.
Kaul, who's representing Wolfe, did not say whether they would appeal the ruling but noted Lanford's decision doesn't dismiss the case, giving him the authority to still challenge the subpoena.
"While today’s decision doesn’t preliminarily block the subpoenas, it does make clear that the court will reconsider doing so if there’s any attempt to enforce the subpoenas before the challenge to the subpoenas is fully litigated," Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement. "Given Speaker Vos’s recent comments indicating that the Gableman investigation will soon be coming to a close, it is my hope that former Justice Gableman will withdraw these unnecessary subpoenas rather than continuing to litigate over them."
Wolfe said in a statement her preference has always been to meet in a public setting with Gableman, such as in front of the Assembly Elections Committee, instead of behind closed doors.
“A primary issue with the subpoenas from the outset was the part about meeting in secret,” said Wolfe. "We’ve already provided Special Counsel Gableman with documents and data, and conversations are ongoing regarding additional document production.”
Lanford's ruling means Assembly Republicans' election probe will continue after Vos and Gableman blamed legal challenges seeking to block interviews with election officials as the reason why the review is taking longer than expected.
Gableman, who was given a $676,000 taxpayer budget for his investigation, was originally supposed to wrap up his work by October, but is now negotiating new terms with Vos for a contract extension. Last week, Vos said in a statement he wants recommendations from Gableman by February to incorporate them into legislation before the two-year session wraps up in March.
Beyond issuing a subpoena to Wolfe, Gableman also served the clerks and mayors of Wisconsin's five largest cities, requesting interviews behind closed doors.
Officials have not complied with the subpoenas and are reluctant to meet with Gableman privately at his Brookfield office. The latest round of subpoenas target Ann Jacobs, the Democratic chair of state Elections Commission, and some municipal IT departments. It seeks documents such as emails, information about voting machines and records related to specific voters.
Democrats have criticized the investigation from the beginning because nonpartisan and conservative groups both found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Wisconsin while conducting in-depth reviews of the election.
Court rulings and recounts have also confirmed Joe Biden's narrow victory, defeating Donald Trump by about 21,000 votes in the state.