Wisconsin Elections Investigator Says He Deleted Recordings

MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) — Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Hired to Investigate President Joe Biden victory in the state of Battleground said on Thursday that he regularly deleted records and deactivated a personal email account even after receiving requests to open records.

Michael Gableman testified at a court hearing about whether the man who hired him, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, should face punishment after he was previously found disrespectful to the way he handled documentation requests from American Oversight.

Dane County District Judge Valerie Bailey-Ryn decided not to punish Vos for contempt of court, but said she would decide later whether Vos should be punished for the way he handled disclosure requests. She scheduled a hearing for July 28.

Bailey-Ryn said that Gableman often gave conflicting testimony, but it was clear that he had destroyed records “that contradicted what fits into the scheme of things.”

Vos hired Gableman a year ago, under pressure from Donald Trump, to investigate the former president’s loss of just under 21,000 votes to Biden in Wisconsin. So far, the investigation has cost taxpayers an estimated $900,000. Biden’s victory survived two recounts, numerous lawsuits, impartial scrutiny, and scrutiny by a conservative law firm.

Gableman released two interim reports, but his work faced a barrage of bipartisan criticism. This spring, Vos suspended his work pending the outcome of lawsuits challenging his ability to subpoena elected officials and others who worked in the election.

Gableman revealed on Thursday that he was working on the investigation at a library in the Milwaukee area and was using his personal email account. Gableman said he didn’t save the recordings he made during meetings he attended, including one in August in South Dakota hosted by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. He also revealed that he deleted records if there were no pending requests to open records, and he decided they were not useful or relevant to his work.

“Did I delete the documents? Yes, I did it,” he said.

Gableman testified that someone in his office deleted his personal Yahoo email account after he received a request to open records from American Oversight. Gableman used this account last summer, before he had an official government email address.

The judge asked Gableman if he searched the account for replies before deleting it, and he said, “I think so.”

“Whether I specifically remember coming back, I don’t remember,” Gableman said. “But I would look at all the email accounts available to me.”

Gableman also revealed that he had to go to the emergency room due to COVID-19 after attending a campaign conference hosted by Lindell in August.

“I went there because I thought there would be some hard evidence of Chinese interference with the (voting) machines, and I was very disappointed that there was no evidence to support those claims,” Gableman said. “And it annoyed me that I went out and, as it turned out, I had COVID. In any case, I did not find anything that could be used in this seminar.

Gableman, who was being questioned by the judge, also said that his research included studying how elections work because “I didn’t have a very complex or confusing understanding.”

Gableman, who smiled as he spoke in court, calmly answered questions from Judge and American Oversight attorney Christa Westerberg for more than 90 minutes. He made sarcastic remarks about Westerberg two weeks ago while testifying in another case where he was a defendant.

Gableman declined to answer questions at that hearing, and last week Dane County District Judge Frank Remington accused Gableman of being unprofessional and misogynistic. The judge fined him $2,000 a day until he complied with open access requirements and referred the case to the state’s attorneys’ regulatory office for possible further disciplinary action.

Gableman appealed this decision.

Vos and the Assembly argued that they were not responsible for the records kept in Gableman’s office. But Bailey-Ryn did not agree. In March, she found Vos in contempt for failing to comply with the archives law, but determined on Thursday that he had taken steps to overturn the contempt order. The judge left open the question of whether he would face punishment under the Public Records Act.

The case is one of three open lawsuits brought by liberal watchdog group American Oversight. They are all looking for records related to Gableman’s 2020 election investigation.

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