Michael Gableman

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Republican Assembly speaker signed a new contract Tuesday with Michael Gableman, the former state Supreme Court justice he hired to investigate the 2020 election, extending his review for an unknown period and cost.

The news from Gableman’s attorney announced in court came just before a judge ordered the release of 700 pages of documents under the state’s open records law, which he said do not support conclusions made in Gableman’s latest report or that there has been much of an investigation at all.

Gableman released his latest report last week and told lawmakers then that he was in talks with Vos to extend his contract that had expired on Dec. 31. Gableman’s attorney James Bopp did not say in court how long the contract extension would last, if more taxpayer money would be paid to Gableman or if there were any limits on what Gableman’s investigation could cover going forward.

The original contract was for $676,000 in taxpayer money to pay for the investigation.

Gableman’s investigation has faced bipartisan criticism and calls for it to be shut down. Gableman said in presenting his latest report that the Republican-controlled Legislature should look into decertifying President Joe Biden’s win in Wisconsin, a move that GOP leaders have said they won’t make and that nonpartisan attorneys have said was unconstitutional.

Biden’s win over Donald Trump by nearly 21,000 votes has withstood recounts, independent audits and reviews and numerous lawsuits. Still, Vos ordered the review by Gableman last summer under pressure from Trump and those who falsely believe the election was stolen.

Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington, in ordering the release of documents requested by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight, said they were underwhelming and would not imperil the ongoing investigation.

“I cannot find a single document in this record that if released would undermine Mr. Gableman’s investigation,” Remington said.

Remington said the public wants to know whether there were problems in Wisconsin’s elections and the best way to do that is through transparency, including releasing the records that include emails from MyPillow executive Mike Lindell and others and reports by other groups not directly related to Gableman’s investigation.

“It’s for every man now to determine whether I have erred to examine these documents and I believe that when done so, will come to the conclusion this has been much to do about nothing,” the judge said.

He added, “these documents do not support the argument that there has been an investigation, much less the conclusions that have been made by (Gableman).”

American Oversight attorney Christa Westerberg argued for releasing the records immediately and questioned whether Gableman has provided all of the records requested.

Westerberg pointed to public comments Gableman has been making about his investigation, including before Wisconsin Republican Party gatherings and on national TV on Monday night, to argue that the records should be disclosed.

Gableman’s attorney said there are people who want to impede the investigation and releasing the documents, especially when they were first requested months ago, would have allowed people to know what Gableman’s intentions were and they could have hired lawyers, destroyed documents or taken other steps to thwart him.

“When a quarterback passes to a wide receiver, he doesn’t telegraph the pass. That’s exactly what we’re talking about here,” Bopp said.

Disclosing the documents also makes it easier to smear those who are involved with the investigation, he said.

“The opportunity for discouraging, attacking, canceling people from assisting in an investigation are now geometrically greater,” Bopp said.

Bopp has said he planned to appeal the ruling, which the judge made last week but kept on hold until after Tuesday’s arguments.

Remington said that existence of a new contract did not affect his ruling in the open records case.

Under his ruling, Vos, Gableman and the Wisconsin Assembly would have to pay $1,000 each in penalties and what the state would have to cover would likely be thousands of dollars in American Oversight’s legal costs.

American Oversight has filed three lawsuits seeking records related to the investigation. There are two other pending lawsuits related to subpoenas Gableman issued to state and local elections officials and the mayors of Madison and Green Bay.