Wisconsin election probe leader traveled to Arizona

- In this May 6, 2021, file photo, Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, File)

The leader of an investigation into the 2020 election in Wisconsin traveled to Arizona last week to learn about the audit done there and attended a symposium on election fraud Thursday in South Dakota headed by MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell.

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman told The Associated Press on Thursday that both visits were about gathering facts for the investigation he is leading.

“I’m here out of an honest effort to find out if anyone has any information that will be helpful in carrying out my duties as special counsel,” Gableman said as he walked from his hotel room to where the symposium is being held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Gableman said his trip last week to Arizona, where a widely discredited election audit by Cyber Ninjas is being conducted, was to learn more about the allegations, the best practices to investigate those allegations, and what could be done differently.

“I learned a lot there that will be helpful to my investigation,” Gableman said. He declined to go into details about what he learned from either trip. He said the trips were paid for out of his $11,000 salary approved by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos when he hired Gableman to lead the investigation.

Gableman said there was a delegation of Wisconsin Republicans at the Lindell event, including state Rep. Tim Ranthum and Wisconsin Elections Commission member Bob Spindell.

Gableman would be better off spending his time talking with Wisconsin election clerks “rather than conspiracy theorists,” said Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach.

“If there’s a problem in Wisconsin, election clerks will tell you,” Erpenbach said. “All Mike Lindell will do is try to sell you a pillow.”

He called Gableman’s trips “a disgusting use of taxpayers’ money.”

“Whatever report he’s going to produce isn’t going to be worth the paper it’s printed on,” Erpenbach said.

Gableman has previously said a thorough investigation was warranted, and the intention was not to attempt to overturn the results. President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by just under 21,000 votes, an outcome that has withstood recounts in two counties and multiple state and federal lawsuits.

Last November, Gableman attended a pro-Trump rally and said a stolen election would be “systematically unjust.” He defended his comments earlier this month, arguing he didn’t say the election was stolen, though he acknowledged that “most of the attendees there had a particular viewpoint.”

The investigation Gableman is leading is one of several in various stages. The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau is conducting a review of the election as ordered by Republicans. That is expected to be done in the fall. And Republican Rep. Janel Brandtjen, chairwoman of the Assembly Elections Committee, issued subpoenas last week to election clerks in Milwaukee and Brown counties seeking voting machines, ballots, and other records.

However, she’s meeting resistance from other Republicans, and nonpartisan legislative attorneys have said the subpoenas are only valid if they are signed by Vos. He has not commented publicly on the subpoenas, but he previously said a Brandtjen investigation was not necessary.

Trump issued a statement Thursday calling Brandtjen a “strong and great leader.”

“All eyes are on Wisconsin as they begin their election audit,” Trump said. “Hopefully, Republican Speaker Robin Vos has the integrity and strength Wisconsin needs to support Rep. Brandtjen’s efforts. Our Country is counting on it!”

Vos said in response that if Gableman determines that subpoenas are necessary, “we will look into making sure those can happen.”

Brandtjen and three other Wisconsin lawmakers also made a trip to Arizona earlier this summer seeking information on the audit there.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.