Gableman signs new contract for election review; judge says investigation 'underwhelming'
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A new contract has been reached with Michael Gableman, a retired Supreme Court justice who was hired by Republicans to review the 2020 election, that will allow him to continue his taxpayer funded investigation.
It comes the same day a Dane County judge ruled to release over 700 pages of documents related to Gableman's review after a liberal watchdog group sued to obtain the records.
The new contract, signed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, will allow Gableman to continue fighting lawsuits that challenge aspects of his probe, such as subpoenas he issued demanding mayors and other election officials sit down for private interviews.
The former Supreme Court justice will not receive any additional funding for his review under the new agreement, but it remains unclear whether Gableman's $676,000 taxpayer budget will cover legal costs in addition to what's already been spent.
When testifying to lawmakers last week about his interim report interim report on the 2020 election, Gableman said he has about $300,000 remaining in his $676,000 taxpayer budget.
Under the contract, Gableman will now have until the end of April, and depending on the outcome, it's possible additional recommendations will be made to his report which suggests decertifying the 2020 election and eliminating the state elections commission.
Nonpartisan legislative attorneys have said overturning the election is legally impossible.
Speaker Vos, who hired Gableman in June, will have the final say whether Gableman's investigation continues after April 30, when both will discuss "whether additional resources will be necessary for the office to fully and properly complete its investigation," according to the contract.
"We will continue to fight the obstruction and myriad of lawsuits filed by Democrats and out-of-state liberal activists, questioning the Legislature’s subpoena power and ultimately keeping this matter from concluding in the time frame we expected," Vos said in a statement.
Gableman's original contract expired in December. He’s given a monthly salary of $11,000 for his investigation. With the ongoing review to continue, Democrats renewed calls to shut it down.
"It is far past time that this sham investigation ended," Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) said in a statement. "The longer Mr. Gableman is allowed to continue his anti-democratic rhetoric, the more dangerous it becomes."
A group of Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Vos asking him to speak out against Gableman's claims of decertifying the election, a move that Vos has repeatedly dismissed.
GOP leaders have also said they oppose Gableman's recommendation to dissolve the state elections commission.
"Mr. Gableman endorsed legal theories that have been repeatedly debunked and policy approaches that you have personally dismissed," the letter said. "Since you hired him, you have repeatedly claimed that Mr. Gableman’s investigation is not about relitigating the 2020 election, and your silence on these latest comments by your Special Counsel demands an explanation.”
Former President Donald Trump praised Gableman's work in a statement, saying he's confident Vos will follow up on Gableman's suggestions. Lawmakers are unlikely to vote on additional election-related bills as both chambers are wrapping up their final days of the two-year legislative session.
"I feel confident that Robin will exercise his moral duty to follow up on Justice Gableman’s findings," Trump said in a statement. "In addition to announcing that they will stay in session and take action to get rid of ERIC and the WEC, which have done some very bad things and made review very difficult (as also noted by the Legislative Audit Bureau), based on the Gableman report, I would imagine that there can only be a Decertification of Electors."
'Underwhelming' Election Documents
On Tuesday, over 700 pages of documents related to Gableman's investigation were released after Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington ordered the records should be made public.
The liberal watchdog group American Oversight sued to obtain the records and has filed several lawsuits regarding Gableman's investigation.
Remington said he ordered the immediate release of the records because they are "underwhelming" and determined it wouldn't interfere with the ongoing probe.
"To examine these documents…I believe when done…will come to the conclusion this is much to do about nothing," said Remington. "I can find no documents in this pile of papers -- if released -- would undermine the investigation."
Remington also questioned how Gableman's been conducting his review when talking about the records.
"I read them forward and backward, up, down and back and forth, and based on my knowledge, training and experience, there’s nothing here," Remington said.
Gableman's attorney, James Bopp, said he will likely appeal the ruling.