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Former Trump official working on Wisconsin election probe



FILE - Recount observers check ballots during a Milwaukee hand recount of Presidential votes at the Wisconsin Center, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Milwaukee, Wis. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican attorney who worked in former President Donald Trump’s administration and falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen in Wisconsin appears to have been hired to help with the taxpayer-funded investigation into how the election was run.

Andrew Kloster was listed as the author of a letter signed by lead investigator Michael Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, sent in an email to county election clerks this week. Gableman has a budget of nearly $680,000 to hire whomever he wants to assist with the investigation, which was ordered by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Gableman and Kloster did not immediately return messages Tuesday or Wednesday asking about Kloster’s role in the investigation.

Kloster worked as an observer for the Wisconsin Republican Party on election night and was accused of yelling at election workers and police in Green Bay, a claim he disputes.

Kloster’s name showed up as the author of a pdf attachment to an email sent Monday to election clerks and signed by Gableman. That email, sent under the name “john delta,” asked clerks to retain election data, which state and federal law already requires them to do.

Clerks told The Associated Press that the email raised security concerns because it had an attachment and came from a Gmail address rather than a state government account. It was flagged as junk mail in at least eight counties.

Shortly after being contacted for comment Tuesday, Kloster deleted nearly all of the tweets on his Twitter account, where he describes himself as an “ecumenical rightist.”

Gableman’s investigation has already drawn bipartisan criticism and news of Kloster’s involvement was likely to increase skepticism about the legitimacy and fairness of the probe.

Gableman has not announced the names of anyone he has hired for the investigation or submitted any invoices for expenses. Vos has said the probe would be independent and resolve any questions about whether anything irregular or illegal occurred in the election.

Republicans have questioned numerous aspects of the 2020 election, but produced no evidence of widespread fraud. President Joe Biden’s win over Trump by just under 21,000 votes has also withstood recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties and numerous state and federal lawsuits filed by Trump and his supporters. To date, only two people out of 3.3 million votes cast have been charged with election fraud.

Kloster, who has deep conservative roots, has been outspoken proponent of Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him.

Gableman also told Trump supporters in November that he thought the election had been stolen. After he was hired as special counsel, Gableman said he was committed to conducting an evidence-based investigation that will thoroughly examine the election and ensure that people are confident their vote counts.

Kloster is active with the Federalist Society. A biography on its website says that he has a “long tenure in the conservative legal movement, at the Scalia Law School, the Heritage Foundation, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and elsewhere.”

Kloster served in the Trump administration as deputy general counsel at the Office of Personnel Management and associate director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. In January, just before Trump left office, Kloster was appointed to the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States.

After his work observing the election in Wisconsin, Kloster submitted an affidavit making unsubstantiated claims about wrongdoing in Brown County and in April published a blog post where he said, without evidence, “the 2020 presidential election was stolen, fair and square. No use complaining.”

Amaad Rivera-Wagner, who works as a community liaison in Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich’s office, described a confrontation with Kloster on election night in an email he sent to the city’s attorney in mid-November.

Rivera-Wagner said Kloster verbally accosted him, screamed at election workers who were counting ballots, accused Rivera-Wagner of not working for the city and yelled at police.

“I then turned to him and said ‘Sir, I work for the city and I am talking to Green Bay Police Officers, I need you stop following us,’” according to Rivera-Wagner’s email. “I asked the police to ask him to stop following us.”

Other poll workers gave similar accounts in sworn affidavits.

In his statement, Kloster gives a different version of events, saying Green Bay police were called after he was asking questions of county election officials.

“At some point, I was surrounded by City of Green Bay police and was prevented from observing,” Kloster wrote.

Vos, who hired Gableman to run the investigation, did not immediately return a message Wednesday asking about the apparent hiring of Kloster. Vos consulted with Trump about the probe, promising to give the former president regular updates.

Separately, Republicans have authorized an investigation by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, which is expected to be done this fall. A handful of Republicans, including the Assembly elections committee chairwoman, are pushing for a broader review similar to the much-derided effort in Arizona led by Cyber Ninjas, a small cybersecurity firm based in Florida picked to lead the review.

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