Wisconsin election subpoenas: Testimony off, attorney says

Testimony about the 2020 election, which subpoenas demanded for Oct. 15 and 22, is cancelled, Madison City Attorney Michael Haas told FOX6 News on Thursday night, Oct. 7. He learned that in a phone call with the office of Michael Gableman, the former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice leading the Assembly Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 election.

Hass said Madison's mayor and clerk will not need to testify, as scheduled, and the paperwork due is just what’s already been publicly released. Haas said Gableman's office made it clear he reserves the right to come back to the subpoenas later, but for now the demands are put on hold. Later, they may be asked to turn those materials over.

Gableman told FOX11 (WLUK-TV) in Green Bay that he reached agreements with Madison, Racine and Kenosha. He'll back off the dates dictated in the subpoenas, in exchange for the the cities voluntarily complying with providing the information he requested in the subpoenas. Gableman confirmed what Haas said: that the municipalities know Gableman can still require all information in the subpoenas be handed over.

The deal would be offered to Green Bay and Milwaukee, Gableman told FOX11, but that agreement has not been reached, yet. That means Milwaukee's election executive director will need to follow the orders for her testimony and documents on Oct. 15, while Mayor Tom Barrett would need to comply with the date of Oct. 22.

It was a question all day: Will Milwaukee's mayor testify in front of the Republican-ordered election investigation? Milwaukee's city attorney said the city intends to comply with reasonable requests but needs more clarity on what the subpoenas seek.

FOX6's Jason Calvi: Is the mayor going to testify on October 22. Yes or no?

City Attorney Tearman Spencer: That's not a yes or no question…When we make a decision on how we will proceed with this, then it will be known to the public.

Another question Spencer would not answer – whether his office can handle the caseload with a number of people resigning from his office. 

Still on the books, in eight days, the first subpoena orders Milwaukee's top election official, Claire Woodall-Vogg, to testify and bring with her all documents related to the election. 

Woodall-Vogg tells FOX6 News she has nothing to hide, but she needs clarity on exactly what the subpoena demands.

Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer said if there are things the city cannot legally disclose, they will work with the special counsel. He said the city will take any action to protect voters' confidentiality and voting machine integrity. The city attorney also said he wants to partner with other city attorneys – five of the state's most populous that were subpoenaed (Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, Racine). 

One of those subpoenaed cities already retained a law firm offering to work for free.

During 75 minutes of closed door discussions on Tuesday, Green Bay's Common Council discussed retaining Law Forward.

"A vote was taken in closed session to retain Law Forward in partnership with States United and Stafford Rosenbaum – and we will now confirm the vote in open session," announced Barbara Dorff, Green Bay Alderwoman.

Law Forward says one of its goals is to "promote a progressive vision." They sent a letter to all Wisconsin clerks in the state and the Wisconsin Elections Commission. It lays out "objections that can be raised in the event the Wisconsin Legislature nonetheless persists in its efforts to initiate third-party post-election reviews."

Before the subpoena-loosening offered to other cities, Milwaukee Attorney Tearman Spencer said he was considering outside legal help.

"I have indeed been looking to outside sources. You know we have a very competent staff inside, but it’s always good to have an extra set of eyes, with extensive experience in that area," Spencer said.

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Law Forward's letter encourages clerks to talk with legal counsel before responding to any requests. It says, "Legislative requests that are excessively broad, burdensome, or vague may be subject to challenge."

It is a point Milwaukee's attorney brought up.

Tearman Spencer

Tearman Spencer

"I want you to know the scope of the subpoena is very broad in nature and have been very broad and the city attorney’s office has reached out to the special counsel for clarification and hope to clarify certain of these requests," Spencer said.

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Spencer said the city intends to comply with reasonable requests – and city workers are already working to compile documents.  

If the city reaches an agreement with Gableman, then the pressing deadline to gather those documents might be on hold.

Milwaukee City Hall

Milwaukee City Hall

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