MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A judge on Friday ordered Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to turn over records related to an investigation he started into the 2020 presidential election, saying the Republican “unjustifiably withheld” them.
Also on Friday, the head of the investigation, Michael Gableman, faced calls to resign after he compared reporting on the probe by the state’s largest newspaper to Nazi propaganda. He also waffled on whether mayors and other officials from the state’s five largest cities will have to sit for interviews with him as part of the investigation.
Vos hired Gableman to conduct an investigation into the presidential election won by President Joe Biden in the face of pressure from Donald Trump and conservatives who claimed without evidence that there was widespread fraud.
Gableman, who also last year claimed without evidence that the election was stolen, is being paid $11,000 a month in taxpayer funds for the investigation, which has a budget of $676,000 that could grow.
In an interview on “The Dan O’Donnell Show,” Gableman said coverage of his work so far has been unfair, particularly from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“What they’re doing over at the Journal would make Joseph Goebbels blush,” Gableman said in reference to Adolf Hitler’s head of propaganda.
“That’s a pretty strong comparison, sir,” said show host Dan O’Donnell.
“I guess you disagree with it,” Gableman said, later saying he retracted the comparison.
Democratic state Rep. Lisa Subeck, who is Jewish, said Gableman should resign or Vos should end his contract because of the comments.
“Certainly what he said is absolutely inappropriate and uncalled for,” she said. “I think in this case, his words disqualify him from being in a position of trust.”
Vos declined to comment.
The judge’s order that Vos produce records related to the investigation came hours after the liberal government watchdog group American Oversight sued, saying Vos had been unresponsive to its record requests. Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn told Vos to immediately release the records or appear in court on Nov. 5 to explain why he can’t.
Vos had no immediate comment on the order, but he previously dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous” and an attempt “to intimidate us into not doing a full investigation.”
The lawsuit names Vos and Assembly Chief Clerk Ted Blazel. It alleges that they have not turned over requested records that include details about how the money is being spent. Similar records requests filed by The Associated Press and other news outlets have also not been fulfilled.
Gableman sent a letter to the AP on Thursday, saying his office was in the process of reviewing the open records request.
“As a newly created office, a wide and substantial variety of logistical or other issues needed office attention in a very compressed time,” Gableman said.
The lawsuit came at the end of a tumultuous week that saw Vos sign subpoenas sought by Gableman to compel testimony from election clerks and mayors in Wisconsin’s five largest cities, which all voted for Biden last November. But in a dramatic about-face on Thursday, another person working on the probe with Gableman told city attorneys that no one would have to testify for now.
Gableman on Friday said he expected full compliance with the subpoenas and that the interviews would still take place if needed.
“They’re going to show up now, all of them, unless we reach an agreement specifically otherwise,” Gableman said.
Gableman said Madison, Racine and Kenosha officials had been cooperative, but that investigators had not heard back from Green Bay of Milwaukee officials.
Mike Haas, city attorney for Madison, said he was contacted by Andrew Kloster, who is working with Gableman, and told that the planned testimony sought under the subpoenas had been canceled. Instead, the cities were asked to turn over documents related to the election that had already been provided in response to previously made open records requests, Haas said.
Kloster sent Haas an email on Friday confirming that, saying whoever delivers the requested materials need only drop it off and “will not need to spend any substantial time with us.”
Kloster worked in Trump’s administration and posted online in April that “the 2020 presidential election was stolen, fair and square.”
“The issue is that we need our own army of local bureaucrats,” Kloster wrote. “And we need to fight for our locales. We need our own irate hooligans (incidentally, this is why the left and our national security apparatus hates the Proud Boys) and our own captured DA offices to let our boys off the hook.”
Kloster’s involvement with the investigation was first revealed in September, when his name was attached to a document that was mailed to Wisconsin election clerks.