'Shut this fake investigation down': AG Kaul wants GOP election probe to end
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is asking a top Republican to shut down an election investigation he called "flawed" and "unprofessional."
Kaul, who is representing the Wisconsin Elections Commission, called on Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to end the investigation into the 2020 presidential election Vos ordered and hired Michael Gableman, a former Supreme Court Justice, to lead.
"My request to Speaker Vos is simple, shut this fake investigation down," Kaul said.
The request to put an end to the investigation comes after a whirlwind of a week for Gableman, who issued subpoenas to five Wisconsin mayors, then walked back his request and also compared the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to Nazi propaganda during a radio interview. Those remarks ignited calls for Gableman to resign or to be fired.
A day after issuing the subpoenas, an aid to Gableman told mayors they no longer need to meet Gableman for interviews and instead can provide documents they already have, which have previously been requested through open record requests.
For now, it remains unclear what exactly Gableman wants, which prompted Kaul to send a letter to Gableman seeking clarity on what kind of documents. At the same time, Kaul bashed the review, saying it's not credible and a waste of taxpayer money.
"Frankly, no serious investigator would conduct an investigation under these circumstances, and no one should treat the results of this investigation as credible," Kaul said.
Vos, in a statement, said he's not going to back down and said the investigation will go on.
“In order to restore confidence in our election system, Justice Gableman will continue his investigation," said Vos.
The attorney general also believes it's unlawful for Gableman to ask officials to testify in private on Oct. 15 and Oct 22 in Brookfield rather than in front of the Assembly's election committee. Kaul said he will wait to see if Gableman responds to his request before deciding whether or not Meagan Wolfe, the leader of the state election commission, will meet with Gableman on Friday.
The subpoenas issued so far target the state elections commission, clerks and mayors in Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Racine and Green Bay.
While several Democratic lawmakers continue to criticize Gableman's investigation for questioning the integrity of the election, some Republicans are also speaking out about the review.
On Monday, Republican Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), chair of the Assembly elections committee, raised concerns with Gableman, who stated election officials who cooperate with his investigation will be granted immunity.
"I do not approve of the current list of subpoenas to the five Wisconsin mayors, as this provides immunity to them in any trial or criminal proceedings," said Brandtjen in a statement.
Janel added she won't support any review that doesn't look into voting machines and ballots, which is similar to an Arizona audit that's been widely discredited by members of both parties.
"Justice Gableman and Speaker Vos continue to dismiss the need for a similar audit of physical ballots and voting machines in Wisconsin," Brandtjen said. A cyber forensic audit, including the recounting of physical ballots and an audit of the machines, would finally rebuild trust in Wisconsin elections."
Brandtjen also said she only learned about Gableman's intentions from media reports and the two videos he's posted since his review got underway.
Gableman Attacks Gov. Evers in Election Video
Over the weekend, Gableman attacked Gov. Tony Evers in a video for his comments calling the review a "$700,000 boondoggle" and encouraging election officials to "lawyer up."
"Those statements show Tony Evers has an incomplete and misguided view of what we're doing," Gableman said in the video. "If the governor believes the election is proven to be conducted flawlessly, then he is completely ignorant to the Wisconsin voters who have great concerns regarding sanctity and security of their vote."
Governor Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback called the video remarks by Gableman and his investigation launched by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) a "sham."
“Speaker Vos’ circus has a ringleader who, without understanding how elections work, has predetermined the results of this sham review,” Cudaback said. “This video only further underscores the governor’s comments that this is a $700,000 boondoggle on taxpayer dime to confirm what independent reviews have already proven: Wisconsin had a free, fair, and secure election, and President Biden won.”
Gableman Focuses Review on Election Grants
Gableman's focus so far has centered around $10 million in election grants awarded to 200 communities to help run the election during the pandemic. The group Center for Tech and Civic Life, which is funded by Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg, distributed the grants, with a majority of the funds going to Wisconsin's five largest cities that were served subpoenas.
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, who claimed the election was stolen before he was hired, also said it's unlikely he'll meet a Republican-projected deadline to complete his report by the end of the month.
During Gableman's remarks in the nearly 7-minute video, he also claimed, without proof, he has "compelling evidence that Wisconsin's elections laws were not properly followed by election officials at both the state and local levels."
President Joe Biden narrowly won Wisconsin during the 2020 presidential election by nearly 21,000 votes, and his victory has been upheld by recounts and numerous lawsuits.