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Kaul urges Republicans to end election investigation, back off conspiracies

The attorney general says the case is being driven by partisan motives

Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks at the inauguration ceremony at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Jan. 7, 2019.
Coburn Dukehart/ Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul says he hopes a GOP investigation into Wisconsin’s 2020 election comes to a close soon, but it will require Republicans to stop chasing conspiracy theories in the name of partisan advantage.

Kaul, a Democrat who leads the Wisconsin Department of Justice, is defending the Wisconsin Elections Commission and administrator Meagan Wolfe in a case connected to the investigation. Wolfe was subpoenaed by Michael Gableman, a former state supreme court justice who was hired by Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly to lead their investigation.

Kaul has asked a Dane County Circuit Court to block Gableman’s subpoena, arguing he lacks the authority to force Wolfe to testify privately. If he’s successful, Kaul said it would block the subpoenas, but it won’t stop the investigation altogether.

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“It would be a question of what Justice Gableman decides to do next,” Kaul said in an interview. “Because he’s conducting this investigation, a lot of steps that we’re taking depend on what actions he takes.”

Kaul said the underlying problem is that Wisconsin’s investigation, like others around the country, is being driven by Republicans who think there’s a partisan advantage to delegitimize or destabilize democracy.

He praised comments from state Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, who has publicly criticized the investigation, urging Gableman to finish it soon.

“The results of this investigation are not going to be credible,” Kaul said. “And we are wasting taxpayer money on this investigation. And so the sooner it comes to a close, the better.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has not put a hard timeline on the investigation, arguing Democrats were to blame for dragging it out because they haven’t cooperated.

Kaul’s case seeking to block Gableman’s subpoena is scheduled for a hearing on Dec. 23. before Dane County Circuit Court Judge Rhonda Lanford.

Gableman has filed a separate lawsuit in Waukesha County Circuit Court seeking to force the mayors of Madison and Green Bay to testify in his investigation. That case is scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 21.

Gableman’s investigation comes after a series of routine state election audits and an in-depth audit from the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau found no widespread fraud or wrongdoing in the 2020 election. A partial recount of the presidential election also found no major problems. Multiple courts also rejected lawsuits seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Wisconsin.

President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes, a margin similar to several other razor-thin statewide elections in recent years.