Milwaukee prosecutor suggests state and federal DOJ investigate fake GOP electors

One heck of a week of democracy and election battles in Wisconsin

By: - January 20, 2022 8:18 pm
American flag torn on barn wall

American Backroom via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

The Milwaukee District Attorney’s office has referred a request for criminal action against 10 Wisconsin Republicans to the state Department of Justice.

Jeff Mandell, an attorney with Law Forward, revealed the news during a national press briefing with pro-democracy groups on Thursday. Mandell last February had sent a criminal referral asking the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office to investigate the 10 Republican “fraudulent electors who met here and tried to hijack Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes,” by certifying that Donald Trump had won the 2020 presidential election and submitting those documents to Congress.

Recently the situation has received heightened attention, sparked by a column by Mandell in the Examiner and an open records request by American Oversight, which was given the documents and shared them publicly.

Mandell said he received a letter in response from Assistant District Attorney Matthew Westphal on Wednesday. In the letter, Westphal said that his office consulted with the state Department of Justice “to discuss these matters” and offered to provide “any necessary assistance to the extent able,” but suggested that due to jurisdictional issues and the situation involving a federal election, the case needed to move up the ladder.

“Your request for investigation alleges behaviors relating to the statewide results of a presidential election and alleges actors residing across the State,” wrote Westphal to Mandell. “As such, these actions would be more appropriately addressed by an agency that maintains jurisdiction across county lines.”

He added that “similar allegations of false electors and false elections certifications have been raises [sic] across the United States, including the states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. At least two of those states have already referred their matters to the United States Department of Justice.”

Last Friday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul addressed the situation, telling the Examiner, “I believe it’s critical that the federal government fully investigates and prosecutes any unlawful actions in furtherance of any seditious conspiracy.”

During the briefing hosted by States United Democracy Center, Mandell said he received evidence this week that the 10 GOP electors who certified a win for Trump did so fully aware that Trump did not win.

“Now, some of the fraudulent electors have said that maybe they didn’t know that all of the [legal] cases were done. And so I’d like to break a little bit of news about this,” said Mandell, “which is that I now have a copy of the envelopes that they used to send those documents in to the federal government. This was not part of the original document FOIA requests that American Oversight got.” Mandell said the envelope and its tracking information prove the documents were put in the mail after it was clear who won the election in Wisconsin.

The fake electors met on Dec. 14, the same day the real state electors were meeting to certify the Wisconsin votes for Joe Biden.

“So not only did they do this on the 14th, but then they had two full more days of news and information before they made a deliberate decision to submit those documents,” added Mandell.

Drop box appeal

Also on Thursday, Law Forward filed an appeal in the case where a Waukesha County judge ruled that using drop boxes to return absentee ballots is antithetical to Wisconsin statutes. Law Forward lawyers will be back in court on Friday seeking an emergency stay given that there are elections in the state in less than four weeks.

“This is a distortion of the law and yet they have found one circuit court judge here in Wisconsin who is willing to say that it’s correct,” Mandell said. “On the eve of the election, they want to change the rules and make it harder for people to vote.”

Mandell said it’s important that people realize it’s not just drop boxes being banned by the judge.

“I want to be more clear because I think a lot of people are talking about it just as drop boxes, but it also challenges the method of ballot return,” said Mandell. “What the court determined is … also that no one except for the voter, the United States Postal Service and the municipal clerk can touch an absentee ballot.”

He said that if the ruling stood, it would result in it becoming ridiculously easy to be arrested for voter fraud.

“That means that if I fully completed my absentee ballot, signed it, sealed it, intend to put it in the mail and on the way out of the house I forget and leave it on the kitchen table and I text my wife and ask her to put it in the mailbox, the judge believes that my wife and I have both committed voter fraud,” said Mandell.

“That is absurd. It is preposterous. It is not supported by Wisconsin statute or practice.”

He filed in the District 4 Court of Appeals in Madison, choosing the appellate venue. The ruling, he asserts is not only wrong, but “the United States Supreme Court has held quite clearly and repeatedly over the last few years but they do not want to see election rules changed on the eve of an election because it causes voter confusion and disenfranchisement. They say that the Constitution prohibits that.”

More Gableman subpoenas

In a separate action, Law Forward attorneys responded Wednesday to two more subpoenas from Michael Gableman, one for the City of Green Bay and its officials, including Mayor Eric Genrich. Gableman is the former Supreme Court justice that Speaker Robin Vos hired to investigate the 2020 presidential election.

They will be back in court Friday, Mandell said, “because Mr. Gableman is trying to have the mayor of Green Bay thrown in jail for not attending a faux deposition.” He added, “Mr. Gableman does not have the authority to take this action under the law, and that he never actually asked anyone to show up at.” Green Bay has been the focus of Republican ire because of grants and Election Day help it received from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, partially funded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

And while Mandell’s colleagues at Law Forward spent Wednesday arguing about gerrymandered redistricting maps before the Wisconsin Supreme Court — another example, he said, of actions antithetical to democracy — Mandell  filed a new lawsuit on behalf of Voces de la Frontera Action, a Latino community group, which also received a subpoena from Gableman’s expanded review.

“Mr. Gableman is seeking to uncover all of the communications activities and financial contributions Voces de la Frontera Action used in its completely legal activities around the election,” said Mandell. “This is a violation. This is an attempt to chill constitutionally protected conduct and speech and it cannot stand.”


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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin was the Wisconsin Examiner's founding Deputy Editor, serving from its launch July 1, 2019, until Feb. 1, 2022. She is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications before returning to journalism at the Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.