Gableman’s contempt and the destruction of democracy

It’s not really a coincidence that, the morning after the first, explosive public hearing by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman — the man appointed by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to leading the partisan investigation into the 2020 election in Wisconsin – was held in contempt of court.

Gableman’s contempt for the rule of law and the institutions of our democracy, which he demonstrated Friday in his bombastic and sarcastic performance in Dane County Circuit Court, is the same style of grandstanding practiced by Donald Trump.

Like Trump, Gableman is a narcissist and tyrant whose taboo-busting nastiness – posing as a wounded hero of a grassroots movement who somehow defends the little guy by displaying a sneering disrespect for officials and government officials. courts – is part of a more general dangerous trend.

Trump, according to House investigators, encouraged a murderous mob to attack the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent certification of the 2020 presidential election. Gableman continued Trump’s efforts with his baseless investigation, pushing the discredited idea that there was massive voter fraud in Wisconsin. While conducting his state-funded investigation that cost Wisconsin taxpayers nearly $1 million, he refused to turn over records — the issue for which Judge Frank Remington scorned him.

Even aside from mounting evidence that Republicans in Wisconsin played a role major role in the plot to overturn the 2020 election results, the magnification of civic dialogue that Gableman represents is, in itself, a threat. This threat was already evident long before Trump was elected, when Gableman, the state’s most ousted judge, was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court after a scandalous and racist campaign and brought his dismissive, ignorant style to an institution headed by the late Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, one of the nation’s most respected jurists. Gableman’s rude treatment of Abrahamson was upsetting, as was his successful campaign to erect a veil of secrecy around court cases – which conveniently concealed discussions of its conflicts by not recused itself from cases involving its donors. Gableman’s only defense of the policy change was that the public meetings were an “experiment” whose “time has passed”. Things have since deteriorated.

Footage of the chaos on Capitol Hill was released in prime time Thursday night by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. is a natural consequence of the dangerous demagoguery practiced by Trump and Gableman.

Contempt is the right word: contempt for truth, contempt for democracy, contempt for legality and, finally, contempt for civility and good morals and even for the physical safety of citizens, legislators and civil servants, including including the Capitol Police who were attacked and killed.

House investigators are seeking to show that Trump was at the center of a wide-ranging conspiracy to overturn the election results. The bogus Wisconsin voters and the bogus Gableman investigation are an important part of this conspiracy.

There is only a short distance between the assault on civil society launched by Gableman and Trump and chaos. Their rhetoric encourages the destruction of peaceful civic life.

Consider Gableman’s appearance on Friday, when, after 45 minutes of arguments from his lawyers that he shouldn’t have to testify at all, he finally took the stand. He then gave a bombastic speech, refused to answer questions and denounced the judge who, he said, without evidence, “abandoned his role as a neutral magistrate and acted as a lawyer”.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington ordered Gableman to stop his stonewalling. “You’ve had a long and storied career, serving the public as…please let me finish,” he said, as Gableman cut him off.

“Sure, if you let me finish,” Gableman replied.

That’s not how it works. Remington reminded him, “I don’t need to tell you how I expect you to control yourself and the behavior I expect from a witness at this bar.”

After a brief additional exchange, Gableman said, “You have the right to direct and control your courtroom, Judge, but you do not have the right to act as counsel for a party rather than the other. I want personal advice if you put prison on the table. I want a personal attorney to represent me personally. I will no longer answer questions. I see you have a prison guard here. You want to put me in jail, Judge Remington, I’m not going to get caught.

All of these discussions of Gableman’s jailing were precipitated by Remington’s instructions at an earlier hearing on the legal ramifications of willfully withholding evidence for contempt of court, which includes, he explained on Friday , reading the Wisconsin Judicial Bench Book, “imprisonment for six months or while the contempt persists, whichever is shorter…in addition to payment to compensate for loss or injury suffered by any party…not not exceed $2,000 per day for each day the contempt continues.

Despite Gableman’s histrionics, “at no time did I suggest this was a sanction I intended to impose,” Remington added.

The irony, of course, is that Gableman himself filed a petition in Waukesha County Court asking that city staff, election officials and Green Bay Mayors Madison and Racine be thrown in jail if they don’t comply with his subpoenas, including requests for testimony in secret closed-door sessions the mayors said were inappropriate.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Kenosha city administrator, after responding to Gableman’s subpoena, only seemed to find that he had to be filed by an attorney who was not licensed to practice in Wisconsin, on which he went .

This kind of buzz is normal for the Gableman Office of Special Counsel course.

As the Examiner’s Henry Redman reportsGableman repeatedly ignored requests for open records, and his attorney said he delete records he deems “unrelated” to his review – which so far has revealed nothing more than baseless accusations of voter fraud.

In a separate lawsuit seeking documents he has so far refused to release, Dane County Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn said he ‘got carried away’ and ‘went rogue’ as he continued to ignore state open case laws.

What is Gableman hiding? Keystone Kops-style incompetence, wasting money and finding nothing are hallmarks of his ridiculous investigation, which he and Vos justify as an effort to increase “transparency” and public confidence in the election. of Wisconsin. We already know that Gableman used taxpayer funds to attend a conspiracy theory conference hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and to travel to Arizona to inspect his discredited audit.

After throwing a tantrum on the stand Friday, Gableman invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself and swept the courtroom. No one stopped him. His bet worked – he was able to continue withholding information. Later, Remington issued an order holding him in contempt.

American Oversight, the group suing Gableman for information, released a statement: “Mr. Gableman’s outrageous and disrespectful conduct in court today has removed every last shred of credibility from this partisan charade. Far from increasing transparency and instilling greater confidence in the 2020 election, by repeatedly flouting Wisconsin’s transparency laws, Mr. Gableman and President Vos have shamed their offices and undermined their own investigation.

Undermining public confidence in democratic institutions and sowing chaos and distrust is in fact the aim of the investigation. And it’s a growing problem for all of us.

Get morning headlines delivered to your inbox

About Harold Hartman

Check Also

Invest in courageous and progressive journalism

The fight for democracy persists as we enter the second half of 2022. As the …