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Wisconsin election investigator criticizes Democrat Evers

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FILE- In this Sept. 17, 2015 file photo, then Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Gableman speaks during a court hearing at the Grant County Courthouse in Lancaster, Wis. Wisconsin election clerks are reacting with a mixture of confusion, concern and bewilderment to the first inquiry made by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, a special investigator hired by Republicans to examine how the 2020 presidential election was run in the battleground state.

Jessica Reilly

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican-hired attorney leading the investigation into how the 2020 presidential election was run in Wisconsin is accusing Democratic Gov. Tony Evers of having “an incomplete and misguided view” of the probe.

The comments former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman made in a video posted online Saturday came less than two weeks after Evers called the taxpayer-funded investigation a “$700,000 boondoggle,” warning election officials under scrutiny should be “lawyered up.”

In a radio interview Friday, Gableman compared the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to Nazi propaganda, a comment he rescinded but that led to calls for him to resign or be fired.

Gableman last week issued subpoenas to election officials and mayors of Wisconsin’s five largest cities and said they would have to come to his office for interviews this month. Someone working with Gableman then told the mayors they could submit more limited information and avoid interviews. But Gableman on Friday appeared to waffle, saying the interviews would happen if the officials didn’t cooperate.

He has posted two videos in an attempt to communicate with the public about the work of the investigation.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos ordered the investigation under pressure from Donald Trump, who has claimed without evidence that he won Wisconsin last year. President Joe Biden won the state by just under 21,000 votes, an outcome that has withstood recounts and a variety of court rulings.

Evers, Democrats and even some Republicans have lambasted the investigation as a sham that undermines faith in elections and democracy. Gableman said his investigation was about restoring trust in elections.

“I would like to ask Tony Evers how is it a boondoggle for the people of Wisconsin to find out if their elections were run fairly?” he asked in the video posted Saturday. “What’s the alternative? The alternative is looking the other way.”

Gableman in November told a rally of Trump supporters, without evidence, that the election was stolen. In an interview with the Journal Sentinel last week, Gableman said he didn’t understand how elections work.

In his latest video, which had been viewed just over 1,000 times as of Monday morning, Gableman takes aim at Evers.

“If the governor believes that it has been proven the election was conducted flawlessly, then he is completely ignorant to the concerns of Wisconsin voters who have great concerns regarding the sanctity and security of their vote,” Gableman said.

Evers’ spokeswoman Britt Cudaback compared the investigation to a circus and said Gableman was a ringleader who doesn’t understand the elections process and “has predetermined the results of this sham review.”

“This video only further underscores the governor’s comments that this is a $700,000 boondoggle on taxpayer dime to confirm what independent reviews have already proven: Wisconsin had a free, fair, and secure election, and President Biden won,” Cudaback said.

The probe initially focused on grants that the heavily Democratic cities of Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine received from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life to help run the election.

The grants were funded by donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. They angered some Republicans because $6.3 million went to the five Democratic cities that ultimately voted for Biden. That was part of $10 million in grants that went to more than 200 communities across Wisconsin.

Gableman suggested in the video that he views the grants as illegal, even though courts have ruled that there was nothing illegal about them.

“Millions of dollars in private funds may have been used in the public management of elections to achieve a preferred outcome at the expense of election integrity — if indeed this occurred — would be the true definition of a boondoggle,” Gableman said. “And it would also mark the beginning of tyranny and the end of the American experiment in democracy.”

Gableman also said he had “compelling evidence that Wisconsin’s elections laws were not properly followed by election officials at both the state and local levels.” He said violations of law, or protocol, or both may have occurred.

“There is also evidence that ambiguities in the law were expansively interpreted, so much so to potentially undermine ballots security measures,” Gableman said.

He did not describe that evidence.

Also Monday, the Republican chair of the state Assembly elections committee, who has called for a broader Arizona-style audit to be conducted in Wisconsin, said she disapproved of Gableman saying mayors who cooperate with his investigation will be granted immunity. As special counsel, Gableman has no power to prosecute.

Republican Rep. Janel Brandtjen also criticized Gableman for discounting results of the Arizona audit, which was widely disparaged by experts as riddled with errors, bias and flawed methodology. Brandtjen said only a recounting of ballots and an audit of voting machines in Wisconsin “would finally rebuild trust in Wisconsin elections.”

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