The Wisconsin election investigation continues to show its partisan and anti-democratic colors, while former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows takes an accountability-dodging page out of his old boss’s playbook. Here’s the latest news on threats to U.S. democracy — and how American Oversight is fighting to expose them.
Investigating the Jan. 6 Attack
On Wednesday, Meadows filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol, claiming that the committee lacks “valid legislative power” and that complying with the committee’s subpoenas would interfere with former President Donald Trump’s attempts to assert executive privilege.
- President Joe Biden has refused to invoke executive privilege in Trump’s case, and on Thursday a federal appeals court ruled against Trump’s bid to block the release of related White House records.
Meadows’s lawsuit comes after the committee indicated that it was prepared to hold Meadows in criminal contempt for refusing to cooperate with the investigation. But details about his complicity in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election have still come to light:
- The committee revealed that Meadows said, “I love it,” about the plan to submit alternate slates of pro-Trump electors from key states in advance of the certification of Biden’s victory. (As a reminder, we obtained those phony certificates.)
- Meadows also reportedly provided the committee with a 38-page PowerPoint on “Options for 6 JAN,” which called for Trump to declare a national security emergency to delay the certification.
Here are other stories we’re following related to the Jan. 6 investigation and the Big Lie of a stolen election:
- Jan. 6 investigators’ new challenge: Trump allies pleading the Fifth (Politico)
- Reclusive heiress who ‘played a strong role’ in financing Jan. 6 rally is thrust into spotlight (Washington Post)
- Event planner working on Bob Dole’s funeral is let go for Jan. 6 ties (New York Times)
- Two election workers targeted by pro-Trump media sue for defamation (New York Times)
- Sidney Powell group raised more than $14 million spreading election falsehoods (Washington Post)
- Georgia governor candidate Perdue says he wouldn’t have certified 2020 election (The Hill)
Wisconsin Election Investigation
Those who have ginned up fears about voter fraud as a way to justify voting restrictions apparently will not be dissuaded by the total lack of evidence of any widespread fraud or of other problems that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 election:
- The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) completed a 10-month review of the 2020 election in that state, and found “no evidence of widespread fraud.”
- Like the report completed by Cyber Ninjas, the firm that ran the Arizona “audit,” WILL pointed to votes that “did not comply with existing legal requirements” as grounds for making changes to election processes, but said there “isn’t much, if any, evidence that these voters did anything intentionally wrong.”
- “The Wisconsin report casts its findings as a middle ground between Trump’s wild claims and those who argue that such audits are intended only to create suspicion — to emit smoke into an arena in which there is no evidence of fire,” wrote the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake.
- Meanwhile, Ron Heuer, a member of the team conducting the Wisconsin Assembly’s Republican-directed election investigation said that “after looking into it very deeply, I don’t think there was any problem with [voting] machines” — something lead investigator Michael Gableman had vowed to look into. “There are few indications that Gableman has put much focus on the issue,” wrote the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Gableman only revealed last week that Heuer was on his team. Heuer is the president of the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, which filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the 2020 election. He’s also the subject of a new article in the Sentinel, which reported this week that Heuer has a history of posting racist content and promoting conspiracy theories on his Facebook page.
- The voters alliance has also attacked grants given by the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life to help cities run elections during the pandemic. Grants were given to municipalities across the state, but Heuer’s group and others have only challenged the larger grants given to the state’s more-populous (and more Democratic) cities.
- Also against the grants were the Thomas More Society and attorney Erick Kaardal, who was also involved in the election-overturning lawsuits. (More on Kaardal below.) The society and Kaardal’s law firm are both subleasing office space from Gableman, as previously revealed by American Oversight.
- This week, the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission unanimously tossed out another set of challenges to the grants, finding that the groups’ complaint “does not raise probable cause to believe that a violation of law or abuse of discretion has occurred.”
- The commission has been under attack by those who want to see the state legislature’s Republican majority take over the administration of elections. And Gableman has unleashed a new round of threats against officials in the state’s larger cities, calling for the mayors of Madison and Green Bay to be jailed if they do not sit for non-public interviews. Those officials said that Gableman had not responded to their most recent requests for details.
While Gableman continues to spout his confusing and often contradictory rhetoric, many of the details of the investigation still remain hidden from the public thanks to his and Vos’s secrecy. Last week, American Oversight asked the Dane County Circuit Court to hold Vos in contempt for failing to comply with the court’s order to release contractor records related to the investigation.
Here are other headlines about efforts to cast doubt on election integrity in other states:
- Pa. Senate election probe contract doesn’t say if the public will see the results, among other things (WITF Harrisburg)
- A Utah group is going door to door looking for election fraud. But they don’t want you to know about it. (Salt Lake Tribune)
- Meet the Trump fanatics who have taken over elections in a critical swing state (Slate)
- Trump-tied group pushing for voting changes in Wisconsin (Associated Press)
On the Records
Wisconsin Rep. Brandtjen’s Communications
One of the most vocal proponents of a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 election in Wisconsin is state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, who has criticized Gableman’s investigation for not going far enough. We obtained emails in which Brandtjen asked the state elections commission for basic information about state election laws and voter-roll administration, as well as a memo from the Wisconsin Legislative Council that she requested regarding the validity of Gableman’s subpoenas.
Gableman’s Contact with Mike Lindell
Last weekend, we obtained records from Gableman’s office that contain several emails to Gableman from Mike Lindell, the My Pillow CEO and prominent election conspiracy theorist, whose August voter-fraud “cyber symposium” Gableman attended. The records also include more indications that Gableman’s office has been working closely with Erick Kaardal, as well as numerous emails with Harry Wait, the president of another conservative group.
Texas Secretary of State Election Audit
In September, the Texas secretary of state announced a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 election in four of the state’s largest counties. The news took county officials by surprise, and records recently obtained by American Oversight back up the report that they were given no advance notice and little guidance on how and when the audit would be conducted. “We are curious on the details ourselves,” wrote one county commissioner to a concerned citizen days after the announcement.
William Barr’s Text Messages
The Justice Department released more of former Attorney General William Barr’s text messages in response to American Oversight litigation. They include a text thread about the secret meeting Barr had with Italian intelligence in August 2019, when he sought help with John Durham’s probe of the origins of the Russia investigation. “No embassy,” Barr said when asked whether the U.S. embassy would be included. “Seth needs to be there,” he said, referring to lawyer Seth DuCharme, who had been involved with Durham’s investigation.
Other Stories We’re Following
The Coronavirus Pandemic
- Two years into this pandemic, the world is dangerously unprepared for the next one, report says (Washington Post)
- CDC chief says omicron mostly mild so far (Associated Press)
- Rapid coronavirus tests are still hard to find in many places, despite Biden vows (Washington Post)
- Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warns about youth mental health (NPR)
- FDA authorizes AstraZeneca drug to protect people with immune problems (New York Times)
- FDA authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine booster shots for 16- and 17-year-olds amid omicron threat (Washington Post)
- Secret investigation documents reveal how the CDC’s first Covid test failed in the pandemic’s early days (BuzzFeed News)
- Pfizer says booster dose of vaccine protects against omicron variant (NBC News)
- Covid-19 hit this county hard. A weakened health department still can’t get people vaccinated. (ProPublica)
- As Covid persists, nurses are leaving staff jobs — and tripling their salaries as travelers (Washington Post)
- Biden orders federal vehicles and buildings to use renewable energy by 2050 (New York Times)
- Russia planning massive military offensive against Ukraine involving 175,000 troops, U.S. intelligence warns (Washington Post)
- ‘We just feel it’: Racism plagues U.S. military academies (Associated Press)
- Death, drugs and a disbanded unit: How the Guard’s Mexico border mission fell apart (Army Times)
- An internal document shows DHS officials advised against Haitian deportations, fearing they could violate human rights obligations (BuzzFeed News)
- FBI may shut down police use-of-force database due to lack of police participation (Washington Post)
In the States
- North Carolina’s 2022 primary election delayed in court fight over maps (Raleigh News & Observer)
- DeSantis offers sea-rise proposal, treading carefully on climate (Bloomberg)
- DeSantis proposes a new civilian military force in Florida that he would control (CNN)
- Texas school district pulls 400 books from libraries after state GOP lawmaker’s inquiry (The Hill)
- University of Florida researchers felt pressure to destroy Covid-19 data, faculty report says (Tampa Bay Times)
- Iowa legislators target books and teachers for upcoming session (Axios)
- South Dakota parlays Covid strategy into exposure for tourism, economy and Kristi Noem (Argus Leader)
- Kansas, Missouri lawmakers slam school boards as curricula fights head to statehouses (Kansas City Star)
- Pa. House Republicans just proposed the first congressional map in a high-stakes redistricting process (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Michigan newspapers sue for access to redistricting memos, meeting recording (Detroit News)
- Justice Dept. files voting rights suit against Texas over new map (New York Times)
- Some Texas religious leaders live in lavish, tax-free estates thanks to obscure law (Houston Chronicle)
- Seven days: Following Trump’s coronavirus trail (Washington Post)
- New York attorney general subpoenas Trump to testify in fraud investigation (New York Times)
- Record shows U.S. sold ambassador’s home in Israel for $67 million (Associated Press)
- Rep. Devin Nunes to leave Congress to become Trump media company CEO (Washington Post)