Wisconsin election subpoenas: Gableman asks for mayors' arrest or testimony

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman asked in court for the arrest of the mayors of Madison and Green Bay if they do not testify in the Wisconsin Assembly's Republican-led investigation into the 2020 election.

Gableman, special counsel for the taxpayer-funded investigation, wants a judge to force the two mayors to testify or have the Waukesha County sheriff jail them until they do. The term is "writ of attachment on the person" – and a judge can use it to force someone to testify or be jailed.

"Why are we here? We’re here because the mayors were subpoenaed. They failed to appear at the designated day for their depositions," Kevin Scott, an attorney for the special counsel, said.

"This is just an outrageous abuse of the process and a violation of the law," Jeff Mandell, an attorney for Green Bay's mayor said.

In early October, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) subpoenaed the state's largest cities – Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine – and ordered their mayors and the person most knowledgeable about each city's election to testify at the Brookfield office of the special counsel on Oct. 22.

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Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

The day before, in an Oct. 21 letter, Gableman told Madison's attorney that he was moving the deposition with the person most knowledgeable to Nov. 15.

The letter read, in part:

"In order to provide our office more time to review materials produced last week, as well as to give both parties additional time to reach an understanding of the scope and nature of the topics to be addressed in the deposition, we are continuing the return date from Friday, October 22, 2021 to Monday, November 15, 2021 at 9:30 a.m."

Michael Gableman

In court, Madison City Attorney Michael Haas read his Nov. 2 letter to Gableman: "I am reiterating our understanding that no official from the city of Madison is required to appear on Nov. 15, 2021 unless we are provided with a more specific scope of inquiry and reach an agreement on other details such as the format and length of any deposition." 

"Your honor," Haas added to Judge Ralph Ramirez, "I did not dream up our understanding. That was based on conversations with the special counsel’s office."

Democrats at a public Assembly hearing last week argued that any testimony should likewise be in the open.

"Are you willing to interview Mayor Genrich, Mayor Rhodes-Conway in public and have the kind of transparency you claim you're asking for, and have them answer questions in front of the entire public of Wisconsin?" said State Rep. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit).

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"Interviewing witnesses in public. That’s crazy. That’s not part of any investigation. If you do that, you compromise, you potentially compromise safety and security of witnesses. You certainly compromise the integrity of the investigation," Gableman said.

Gableman said he targeted Madison and Green Bay, and not Milwaukee, Kenosha and Racine, because: "All the clerks and of all the mayors, those two simply failed without reason or excuse to appear for their depositions."

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison

Madison's city attorney said the city's mayor remains willing to testify in public before the legislative committee.

The judge took no action Friday, Dec. 10; it was just a scheduling hearing. He did set a status hearing for Jan. 21. That weeks after a Dane County judge hears the Wisconsin Department of Justice challenge of Gableman's subpoenas.

The Wisconsin DOJ wrote the Waukesha judge, explaining that a Dane County judge is already hearing the case. They say the subpoenas demand for testimony in private, away from legislative committees, breaks the law.

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