MILWAUKEE - The retired Wisconsin Supreme Court justice tasked with leading a review of the 2020 presidential election said there are enough concerns about the integrity of the election to warrant a "very thorough examination."
Michael Gableman, who was hired by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos as a special counsel in charge of the investigation, made the comments in an interview that aired Sunday on WISN-TV's "UPFRONT." It is one of the first times Gableman has spoken publicly about the review.
Gableman last November attended a pro-Trump rally at Serb Hall in Milwaukee and said a stolen election would be "systematically unjust."
He defended his comments, arguing he didn't actually say the election was stolen.
"Whether that occurred here is very much a question to be examined," he said.
While the former president has claimed that the 2020 election was fraudulent, the Justice Department said there was no evidence to support this false claim. Trump's legal challenges have been widely rejected in U.S. courts.
Vos has said the purpose of the investigation is not to overturn the election results. Asked whether he agrees, Gableman said, "absolutely."
Gableman said he wants to look into certain concerns to build voters' confidence in the electoral process.
"My mission is to try to do whatever I can so that going forward so people can have confidence that their vote counts," he said.
And in response to a question about whether the review would include a "forensic audit" of election equipment, Gableman said, "Maybe and maybe not."
He said there is no clear definition of what a forensic audit, like the controversial one conducted in Arizona, would entail.
"We're going to take it step by step, we're going to do it in a logical fashion, we're going to do it based on evidence," he said.
Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, has called for a "cyber-forensic examination" of ballot machines, led by the Assembly elections committee. Vos has said Brandtjen is "misinformed" about the reviews already underway and that a forensic audit is already taking place.
Along with the review conducted by Gableman, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau is also performing a review.
Gableman said his review would focus on three main issues.
He said he would look into grant money that five Wisconsin cities received to run the election from a nonprofit funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
Conservative groups have unsuccessfully sued three times over the private grant funding from the Center for Tech and Civic Life but are expected to bring more litigation.
Gableman also said there were legal concerns about "guidance documents" issued by the Wisconsin Elections Commission to local clerks.
"There have been a lot of concerns that the Wisconsin Elections Commission has actually become the de facto rulers of our Wisconsin election," he said.
Gableman also said he would look into how the voting machines work. He said he would speak with election officials who use the machines.
"What I need to do is take a very hard look at how precisely those machines are supposed to work," he said.
No significant problems were found with Wisconsin's voting machines after audits and recounts in 2016 and 2020.
Gableman said he has been frustrated over the last month because politicians and constituents have been giving him "unsolicited advice" about how to run the investigation and issuing "demands for immediate action."
"What I have been trying to formulate is a logical, step-by-step, responsible and prudent way to go about accomplishing the mission," he said.
"I firmly believe that this is not a partisan issue, that everybody should be interested in making sure that going forward, our voting and ballot system is transparent and honest," he said.
On Friday, Vos confirmed the two former police detectives hired to assist Gableman with the investigation had quit. He said both of them quit because they were hired to work part-time, but they said it required a full-time effort.
Vos told the Associated Press he has empowered Gableman to hire as many people as needed.
Vos said plans to expand the investigation he ordered had been underway for a while, after Gableman came to him and said a more robust effort was needed with investigators who could work on it full-time. Though he didn’t set a budget, Vos said it would be reasonable to spend several hundred thousand dollars on it.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin election investigator says integrity concerns warrant review