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Wisconsin AG Josh Kaul requests restraining order against Gableman subpoenas in election probe

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Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has asked a Dane County Circuit Court judge to prohibit former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman from enforcing subpoenas he filed with the state elections commission as part of an ongoing investigation into how the 2020 election was conducted.

Kaul’s request for a restraining order, which was filed Thursday, alleges Gableman’s special counsel has issued “numerous subpoenas to state and local election officials in furtherance of an unlawful investigation focused on debunked theories about the November 2020 Election.” The motion for a restraining order relates to subpoenas issued to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which Kaul represents, and its administrator, Meagan Wolfe.

Kaul’s motion comes about one week after the state Department of Justice and Gableman, who was hired by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, to lead the probe, reached a mutual agreement to reduce the special counsel’s overall request for election-related documents. Gableman also agreed to hold off on his initial demand to have Wolfe and the mayors and city clerks in the state’s largest cities testify in private meetings last Friday, though he did reserve the right to request interviews in the future.

In Thursday’s motion, Kaul said Gableman’s subpoenas “suffer multiple legal defects and should be invalidated on those legal bases.” He added that subpoenas requesting depositions have no basis in statute and exceed the scope of legislative authority.

Kaul said Wolfe and Elections Commission officials stand ready to provide testimony and additional documents for the investigation, but only to the state Legislature or one of its committees.

“But the current Subpoenas, infected with the numerous legal flaws discussed herein, cannot be lawfully enforced and must therefore be immediately enjoined,” he wrote in the motion.

Kaul earlier this month questioned the legality of the subpoenas, while calling on Vos to call off the “fake investigation” that he said has been “irrevocably tainted by bias.” Vos responded earlier this month that Gableman’s investigation would continue.

Gableman’s special counsel and Vos’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

During an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Morning Show,“ on Tuesday, Vos said the investigation, which had originally been planned to be complete by the end of October, will now be finished before the end of the year. Vos did not say if the investigation could cost more than the $676,000 in taxpayer dollars allocated to the effort in June.

In the interview, Vos said the goal of the investigation is to “shine a light on all of the problems that occurred in 2020 so we don’t see them happening again in 2022 and going forward.”

“If there’s nothing to hide, why are there all these Democrats literally now working with liberal lawyers to try to ensure that nothing becomes public and that nothing sees the light of day? They obviously have something to hide,” Vos said.

The one-party investigation is focused on some of the procedures voters and clerks relied on in casting and processing ballots. Although some have raised the prospect of fraud, no claims of large-scale cheating have been substantiated, and the investigation, so far at least, is not seeking to review any ballots.

A recount and court decisions have affirmed that President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in Wisconsin by almost 21,000 votes. Four voters out of roughly 3 million who cast ballots have been charged with fraud.

The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau is also reviewing the 2020 election. That review was also ordered by Republicans and is expected to be completed this fall.

Kaul had questioned the legality of the subpoenas, calling on Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to call off the "fake investigation" that he said has been "irrevocably tainted by bias."

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