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Elections

Michael Gableman

Wisconsin’s Republican speaker of the State Assembly, Robin Vos, on Friday fired a conservative former state Supreme Court justice he handpicked to investigate fraud in the state’s 2020 elections, ending a 14-month, taxpayer-funded inquiry that yielded no evidence of electoral wrongdoing.

Under pressure from Trump and cronies to overturn his 2020 loss in the state, Vos hired the former state Supreme Court Justice, Michael Gableman, in July 2021 as a special counsel to probe the state’s election results.

However, the relationship soured after Vos refused Gableman’s entreaties to decertify the 2020 election results despite finding no evidence of significant fraud during his inquiry, which cost taxpayers $1.1 million.

Gableman had noted in a report of his findings that decertifying the state’s election results “would not, for example, change who the current president is,” yet he joined Trump in disseminating bogus conspiracy theories about the 2020 elections and backing Vos’ primary challenger.

The weeks-long standoff between Vos and Gableman ended after the speaker narrowly edged out his Trump-backed opponents in the state’s primaries.

"After having many members of our caucus reach out to me over the past several days, it is beyond clear to me that we only have one choice in this matter, and that's to close the Office of Special Counsel," Vos announced in a statement.

Gableman, whose abilities Vos was initially “supremely confident” in, became a bullhorn for Trump’s Big Lie and led Republican efforts to decertify the state’s presidential election results, contradicting the Legislature’s findings in November that no basis in law supported decertification.

Vos called Gableman an “embarrassment” Tuesday night and told WISN-TV that “he had fired Mr. Gableman by letter and that the two had not spoken in recent weeks,” according to the New York Times.

“I really don’t think there’s any need to have a discussion,” Vos said. “[Gableman] did a good job last year, kind of got off the rails this year.”

The Republican-led investigation drew scorn from its inception, as Gableman had — as early as November 7, 2020, just one day after the election — announced his belief that the 2020 election was stolen.

During his investigation, Gableman looked into the background of public employees as part of his investigation and threatened to lock up local officials who refused to answer his questions in private interviews — extreme steps that drew calls for the probe to be shut down.

In one case, part of a document titled “Cross Pollinators” on the special counsel’s website, Gableman labeled a Milwaukee city employee a Democrat because she "has a weird nose ring," plays video games, "loves nature and snakes" and lives with her boyfriend although they are not married,” according to CNN.

Wisconsin Democrats, who had assailed the special counsel and his investigation from the start, celebrated Gableman’s firing and slammed Vos for his hiring.

“Finally,” said Democratic Wisconsin Governor, Tony Evers.

In the days after his narrow victory in the primaries, Vos defended his decision to begin the Gableman probe but promised to end it.

“There were problems with the 2020 election that we need to fix — all of those things are real,” Vos told a conservative talk radio show in Milwaukee. “But somehow, Justice Gableman, as the investigation began to come to an end, decided it was more important to play to Donald Trump and to play to the very extreme of our party who thought we could unconstitutionally overturn the election than it was to be responsive to his client, which was the Legislature.”

Neither Gableman nor his representatives responded to multiple requests for a comment on the firing.

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Matthew DePerno, left, and Donald Trump

Youtube Screenshot

Michigan Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel announced in a press release on Aug. 8 that her department had petitioned the Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council, a state agency that provides legal research to the state's prosecuting attorneys and coordinates their activities, to assign a special prosecutor to an ongoing investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Nessel's petition, based on evidence obtained during an investigation by the office of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, says that the Michigan Department of Attorney General and the Michigan State Police are investigating "a conspiracy to unlawfully obtain access to voting machines used in the 2020 elections." Named in the petition are a Republican candidate for Michigan attorney general, Kalamazoo lawyer Matt DePerno, and eight other people.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Christina Grossi said in a letter to Benson dated Aug. 5:

Ultimately, our investigation uncovered that, after the 2020 election, a group of individuals gained unauthorized access and compromised tabulators from the following clerk’s offices: the Roscommon County Clerk, the Richfield Township Clerk, the Lake City Township Clerk, and the Irving Township Clerk. All unauthorized access occurred between the dates of March 11, 2021, and late June of 2021. All impacted tabulators have been seized as evidence as part of our investigation and decommissioned from use in any future elections.

Nessel's petition states, "The Michigan State Police and the special agents with the MDAG have completed a preliminary review and it is now time for a prosecutorial review for charges that include but are not limited to Conspiracy ...; Using a Computer System to Commit a Crime ...; Willfully Damaging a Voting Machine ...; Malicious Destruction of Property ...; Fraudulent Access to a Computer or Computer System ...; and False Pretenses."

Through analysis of images included in a lawsuit filed in 2021 by DePerno and attorney Stephanie Lambert aiming to overturn the results of the election in Antrim County, Reuters connected DePerno's group, the "Michigan Antrim County Election Lawsuit and Investigation Team," with unauthorized access to vote tabulation equipment in Richfield County..

The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed, and the state Senate Oversight Committee called it "frivolous."

Former President Donald Trump and his supporters continue to claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, despite investigations in Michigan and across the country turning up no evidence of fraud.

Also named in Nessel's petition is Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, who has a history of associating with extremist militias and belongs to the far-right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, whose members falsely insist that county sheriffs have absolute law enforcement authority in their jurisdictions, even above state and federal authorities, including governors and the president of the United States. In a special report on Leaf published in July, Reuters noted that in May the association had encouraged its members to investigate so-called fraud in the 2020 election.

Leaf did open an investigation and tried unsuccessfully to seize voting machines in an effort guided by Lambert, who was a member of a team of Trump lawyers spearheaded by Sidney Powell that filed a lawsuit in federal court in Michigan in a failed attempt to overturn the state's election results. Reuters reported that its investigation shows "People spearheading Trump's rigged-election claims in Michigan were deeply involved with Sheriff Leaf early on, making Barry County a pillar of their efforts to overturn the presidential vote in a fiercely contested state that Biden won by 154,000 votes of 5.5 million cast."

DePerno, who has been endorsed in his run for attorney general by Trump, defended his actions during an appearance August 8 on the podcast "Michigan's Big Show," telling host Michael Patrick Shiels:

[Nessel's] allegations are total garbage. This is coming strategically. She's trying to damage me right now, clearly. We have county conventions coming up Thursday, we have the state convention at the end of August. She knows right now that she's losing. The most recent assessment shows DePerno with a +1 advantage in this race, so she comes out with this nonsense, claiming that somehow I did something illegal, and that she's going to conduct an investigation. And that's a terrible thing for a sitting attorney general to do against a political opponent. She's weaponizing her office again, just like she did in the Flint water case.

DePerno's troubles did not begin with his attempts to overturn a free and fair election, however. He has also been dogged by allegations of financial impropriety. He was fired by his former law firm on the basis of accusations of "fraud, deceit and dishonesty with regards to bogus billing, duplicate billing and write offs, in addition to other wrongful acts."

More recently, former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard, who is also running for the Republican nomination for attorney general, raised questions about $400,000 donated to an "Election Fraud Defense Fund" that DePerno managed, claiming that the money was donated directly to DePerno and hasn't been accounted for.

While DePerno is running for to be the top prosecutor in the state, he has no experience as a prosecutor.

DePerno's office did not return requests for comment for this article.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.