An attorney leading an investigation of the 2020 elections for Wisconsin’s legislative Republicans has threatened to jail the mayors of Wisconsin’s second- and third-largest cities if they don’t meet his demands.
The mayors, for their part, say the attorney is wildly distorting reality, and that their attempts to reach him have gone unanswered.
Michael Gableman, a former state Supreme Court justice who’s leading a partisan review of the last presidential elections, filed petitions for “writ of attachment” against the two mayors in county court this week, accusing the mayors of failing to appear for testimony without explanation. But both mayors say they’ve reached out to Gableman’s office and not heard back.
Gableman’s petitions cite a Wisconsin statute that spells out the conditions under which a judge “may commit the person to close confinement in the county jail” if that person fails produce lawfully required testimony.
“Petitioner respectfully requests that the Waukesha County Circuit Court issue a writ of attachment on the person of Eric Genrich and order the Waukesha County Sheriff to execute such commitment until Eric Genrich has fulfilled her [sic] legal duties in respondent to said subpoena,” the petition reads, incorrectly referring to Genrich, the mayor of Green Bay, using the “her” pronoun.
An identical petition also seeks the sheriff’s action against Satya Rhodes-Conway, the mayor of Madison. PBS Wisconsin published the court documents Thursday.
A lawyer for Green Bay reacted forcefully to the filing — which he characterized as “seeking an order to commit Mayor Genrich into custody at the Waukesha County Jail” — saying that it wasn’t legally enforceable and that the mayor would be pursuing legal sanctions against Gableman.
“Based on our initial review, the Petition is not only lacking in legal merit and built upon a gross distortion of the relevant facts, but it departs so greatly from legal standards that Mayor Genrich intends to serve the Special Counsel with a motion for sanctions,” wrote attorney Jeffrey Mandell, in a letter published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Madison Mayor Rhodes-Conway said in a statement Thursday that the Madison city attorney had reached out to Gableman’s office, but that neither Gableman nor his attorneys had responded — “further underscoring the abject lack of professionalism on Gableman’s team.”
“Attorney Gableman apparently missed the October headlines saying that I was proud of and willing to testify publicly about Madison’s handling of the 2020 election,” Rhodes-Conway said.
The Wisconsin effort is a cousin to other Republican efforts to cast doubt on the 2020 election results. Gableman used state funds to visit the Arizona “audit” as well as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “Cyber Symposium,” where the bedding magnate failed to deliver promised evidence of Chinese election hacking. A few days after the 2020 election, Gableman said, “I don’t think anyone here can think of anything more systematically unjust than a stolen election.”
Officials in both Wisconsin cities said they had not been served with Gableman’s suit, but had seen copies online, the Journal-Sentinel noted.
The Waukesha County Circuit Court has scheduled a hearing for Gableman’s petitions on Dec. 22, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general, Josh Kaul, sought a restraining order in October to prevent Gableman from enforcing his subpoenas. A hearing on that matter is scheduled for Dec. 23.
The petitions come as Gableman has grown increasingly publicly aggressive with his investigation — and alongside other alarming developments in the state, including Republicans threatening to take over election authority from the body they created six years ago to govern voting, the Wisconsin Election Commission. The sheriff of Racine last month also recommended that the majority of commission members face felony charges.
Gableman has been particularly focused on Mark Zuckerberg’s role in the 2020 election — specifically, dollars donated by the Zuckerbergs for the benefit of local election administrators struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic amid the last presidential elections.
“Of all the clerks and of all the mayors, those two simply failed without reason or excuse to appear for their depositions and answer questions about how and to what extent they allowed Mark Zuckerberg’s employees to plan and administer their city’s election in November 2020,” Gableman said during testimony before the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, PBS Wisconsin noted.
At the same hearing, Gableman said it was “very clear” that Zuckerberg’s goal was to defeat Trump and elect Biden in 2020. He then said, referring to one non-profit official at a group that benefited from Zuckerberg’s donations, “we may be looking at more robust ways to secure his presence.”