Wisconsin election probe leader went to Arizona

The leader of an investigation into the 2020 election in Wisconsin traveled to Arizona last week to learn about the audit done there and was attending a symposium on election fraud Thursday in South Dakota headed by MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell.

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman told The Associated Press on Thursday that both visits were about gathering facts for the investigation he is leading.

"I'm here out of an honest effort to find out if anyone has any information that will be helpful in carrying out my duties as special counsel," Gableman said as he walked from his hotel room to where the symposium is being held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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Gableman said his trip last week to Arizona, where a widely discredited election audit by Cyber Ninjas is being conducted, was to learn more about the allegations, the best practices to investigate those allegations and what could be done differently.

"I learned a lot there that will be helpful to my investigation," Gableman said. He declined to go into details about what he learned from either trip. He said the trips were paid for out of his $11,000 salary approved by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos when he hired Gableman to lead the investigation.

Michael Gableman

Gableman said there was a delegation of Wisconsin Republicans at the Lindell event, including state Rep. Tim Ranthum and Wisconsin Elections Commission member Bob Spindell.

Gableman would be better off spending his time talking with Wisconsin election clerks "rather than conspiracy theorists," said Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach.

"If there’s a problem in Wisconsin, election clerks will tell you," Erpenbach said. "All Mike Lindell will do is try to sell you a pillow."

FILE - Then-President Donald Trump listens as Mike Lindell, CEO of MyPillow Inc., speaks during the daily briefing on COVID-19 in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 30, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Then-President Donald Trump listens as Mike Lindell, CEO of MyPillow Inc., speaks during the daily briefing on COVID-19 in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 30, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

He called Gableman’s trips "a disgusting use of taxpayers’ money."

"Whatever report he’s going to produce isn’t going to be worth the paper it’s printed on," Erpenbach said.

Gableman has previously said a thorough investigation was warranted and the intention was not to attempt to overturn the results. President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by just under 21,000 votes, an outcome that has withstood recounts in two counties and multiple state and federal lawsuits.

President Biden visits La Crosse, Wisconsin

President Biden visits La Crosse, Wisconsin

Last November, Gableman attended a pro-Trump rally and said a stolen election would be "systematically unjust." He defended his comments earlier this month, arguing he didn’t say the election was stolen, though he acknowledged that "most of the attendees there had a particular viewpoint."

The investigation Gableman is leading is one of several in various stages. The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau is conducting a review of the election as ordered by Republicans. That is expected to be done in the fall. And Republican Rep. Janel Brandtjen, chairwoman of the Assembly Elections Committee, issued subpoenas last week to election clerks in Milwaukee and Brown counties seeking voting machines, ballots and other records.

However, she's meeting resistance from other Republicans and nonpartisan legislative attorneys have said the subpoenas are only valid if they are signed by Vos. He has not commented publicly on the subpoenas, but he previously said a Brandtjen investigation was not necessary.

Then-President Donald Trump makes his way to Air Force One, heading to Kenosha to meet with law enforcement officials and to survey damage following civil unrest in the city. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump issued a statement Thursday calling Brandtjen a "strong and great leader."

"All eyes are on Wisconsin as they begin their election audit," Trump said. "Hopefully Republican Speaker Robin Vos has the integrity and strength Wisconsin needs to support Rep. Brandtjen’s efforts. Our Country is counting on it!"

Vos did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Brandtjen and three other Wisconsin lawmakers also made a trip to Arizona earlier this summer seeking information on the audit there.

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