Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman sought to clarify he won’t go to court to compel local clerks to comply with subpoenas so long as they voluntarily turn over the election documents he wants.

In an interview with Friday, Gableman disputed media reports that he was willing to drop the subpoenas he issued to local officials in five cities if they voluntarily provide documents they’ve already produced through open records requests.

Madison city attorney Mike Haas told Thursday that Andrew Kloster, who is working with Gableman on the probe, told him clerks would no longer be required to travel to Brookfield next week to turn over the records being sought. Instead, the special counsel’s office was asking for the documents to be put on a thumb drive and mailed.

Haas added Kloster told him investigators would review the documents and then decide how to proceed. They also reserved the right to request more documents.

The original subpoenas directed clerks to be at Gableman’s Brookfield office at 9 a.m. Oct. 15 with the records. Gableman said he was willing to work with clerks on a date and time that was convenient for them to produce the initial batch of records while reserving the opportunity to pursue more.

“I want to be reasonable to the clerks, and I want to be reasonable to the taxpayers,” Gableman said.

His office also sent subpoenas to the mayors of Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee and Racine as well as the person “most knowledgeable in regard to the November 2020” election. Those subpoenas commanded recipients to appear in person before the special counsel or his designee at 9 a.m. Oct. 22 at Gableman’s Brookfield office “to give evidence and testimony” with regard to the election.

Gableman told the subpoenas include a time and date as a deadline unless other arrangements were made. But he declined to further discuss the status of those subpoenas.

Friday, Kloster and Haas exchanged emails in which they laid out different recollections of their Thursday conversation.

Kloster wrote in his email that he had conveyed to Haas the previous day that Madison was to produce a flash drive “containing all response communications you may reasonably produce” by Oct. 15, “including but not limited to the open records productions you have already made.” Kloster added someone from Madison would need to physically present the copy to Gableman’s office, but would “not need to spend any substantial time with us.”

“If and when we have follow-up questions or specific production requests pursuant to the subpoena, we are confident in your assurances that your office will continue to be as cooperative as you have already agreed to be,” Kloster wrote.

Haas responded that his “clear recollection” and notes from the conversation confirm Kloster stated if the city could provide its previous public records requests, that would be “sufficient to comply with the subpoenas for purposes of what is considered due on October 15 and 22, 2021, including the requests for interviews.” Haas added that he understood the city could send a thumb drive by certified mail to comply with the request.

“At this point, it is not reasonable to expect that our Mayor, City Clerk and IT Department can compile and produce other records that may be responsive to the broad language in the subpoenas by next Friday, and we plan to provide the records you agreed to yesterday by then,” Haas wrote. “As we also agreed, the Special Counsel can certainly reserve the right to request additional documents and schedule interviews after reviewing the voluminous documents that will be provided.”

Gableman also pushed back on the suggestion he was dropping the subpoenas in an interview with WISN-AM Friday, saying his office was only trying to convey to the cities that if they cooperated with the records request, they wouldn’t have to show up at his office.

“But I’ll tell you what. They’re going to show up now, all of them, unless we reach an agreement specifically otherwise,” Gableman said.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in a statement, “Given Gableman’s public comments today there still seems to be a lack of clarity about this issue. A subpoena is a legal directive and Rep. Vos should formally rescind it.”

In the WISN-AM interview, Gableman compared the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage of the subpoenas to the work of Joseph Goebbels, the chief propagandist for Nazi Germany under Adolph Hitler.

After Gableman said, “What they’re doing over at the Journal would make Joseph Goebbels blush,” host Dan O’Donnell pushed back on the comment, saying he generally shied away from making comparisons to Nazis and Hitler. They then jokingly settled on comparing the newspaper to the Pravda, an official publication of the Soviet Communist Party.

Dem state Rep. Lisa Subeck, who is Jewish, tweeted Friday, “Special Counsel Michael Gableman’s comments earlier today comparing a mainstream newspaper to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbel clearly disqualify him. If Gableman does not resign, @SpeakerVos should remove him immediately.”

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