MADSON, Wis. ( Associated Press) — A judge on Thursday ordered an investigator in Wisconsin to stop deleting records in the 2020 election, the latest setback against a former state Supreme Court justice whose contract is about to expire.,
Michael Gableman has released two interim reports on the election won by President Joe Biden and suggested the GOP-controlled legislature consider the legally impossible move to certify his victory. Republican leaders, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who hired Gableman, have repeatedly said they have no intention of trying to sabotage the victory.
Gableman’s report does not include evidence To support false claims that Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2020.
Biden’s victory over Trump by nearly 21,000 votes has sparked recounts, independent audits and reviews, and multiple lawsuits. Still, Vos last summer ordered a review by Gableman under pressure from Trump and others who falsely claimed the election was plagiarized.
Gableman’s work has been implicated in several ongoing lawsuits, including three brought by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight. It filed a number of open-record requests primarily seeking documents from Vos and Gableman. has been found in contempt In a case for failing to turn over the records.
Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington issued an order Thursday in one of those lawsuits, asking Gableman to “not delete or destroy any records that may be liable for the group’s open records requests.” “.
Remington passed the order after Gableman’s attorney told American Oversight that it “regularly removes documents and text messages that are not of use for investigation.”
The nonpartisan Legislative Council, lawyers advising the legislature, said in October that deleting such records even by a state contractor like Gableman is a violation of Wisconsin law.
Gableman’s attorney, James Bopp, has argued in the court filing that the records retention law does not pertain to contractors. Bop did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Thursday.
Bop said in an April 8 letter to American Oversight that all accountable records have been overturned and that once the investigation is complete, all materials will be made public. Bopp said Gableman’s office regularly evaluates documents, including text messages and emails, to determine whether the record is useful for the ongoing investigation. Bop said those determined to be relevant are retained and others removed.
American oversight consultant Melanie Sloan blamed Gableman’s office for deleting the records.
“Had this investigation been above board, the Office of Special Counsel would have maintained and issued records of its work as required by law,” Sloan said. “Instead, it is fighting tooth and nail to hide its work from the public. This investigation is nothing but an attempt to promote conspiracy theories and undermine free and fair elections.”
Gableman’s current contract runs through the end of April, but he has indicated in recent interviews that he does not expect to extend it.
Remington in March Gableman’s release of more than 700 pages of documents, the judge said, does not support the findings made in Gableman’s latest report or show that there has been too much investigation.