Attorney General Shoots Down Regulator Claims On John Doe ‘Opposition Research’

MacIver News Service | December 14, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis. –  Bizarre.

That’s how Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel describes assertions by state Elections and Ethics regulators that Republicans targeted in the infamous John Doe investigation somehow labeled folders of thousands of emails illegally seized from them by John Doe investigators as “Opposition Research.”

The assertions are absolutely not true, Schimel said.

A state Department of Justice report into illegally leaked John Doe documents found – among other disturbing revelations regarding the unconstitutional, politically driven probe – the now-defunct state Government Accountability Board created “Opposition Research” folders on a hard drive.

“There’s metadata when you create something on a computer. There’s data embedded behind that may not be immediately visible but you can look and see when those documents were created, when they were modified,” explained Schimel.

“There’s metadata when you create something on a computer. There’s data embedded behind that may not be immediately visible but you can look and see when those documents were created, when they were modified,” Schimel told MacIver News Service Wednesday during an interview on the Vicki McKenna Show.

“We were able to look at the metadata and see it was created on April 10 of 2012. That predates the documents and emails that were found within those folders. The ‘Opposition Research’ folder was created on a Government Accountability Board hard drive,” Schimel added.

Late last week, former GAB staff attorney Shane Falk, who helped drive the dissolved speech regulator’s deep involvement in the John Doe probe, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he did not know why some files were labeled “Opposition Research.”

Former GAB attorney Shane Falk claims he doesn't know why some #JohnDoe folders were labeled 'opposition research,' and he and his former colleagues blame Republicans, an assertion Schimel calls 'bizarre'. #wiright #wipolitics #JohnDoe3 Click To Tweet

Despite the fact that the material involved electronic communications seized by John Doe investigators, Falk suggested that Republicans labeled the folders.

“We didn’t change folder names and such, so I suspect it was the Republicans who set that up,” he told the newspaper in an email. The publication did not challenge that assertion. “I have no idea about anything anymore. I left the GAB in August 2014, turned over everything then, and haven’t had access since.”

“That assertion is just bizarre and the Journal Sentinel should be challenging that assertion as incredible on its face,” Schimel said.

State Elections Commission administrator Michael Haas, one of the sworn-in GAB agents involved in the secret campaign probe into Wisconsin conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign, doubled down on his former colleague’s assertion.

“Those were from search warrants not issued by the GAB, and approved by the John Doe judge,” Haas told reporters Tuesday.

Those warrants certainly had the buy-in of the GAB, partners in what many conservatives see as government-sponsored crime alongside the Democrat-led Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. The agencies worked hand-in-hand pushing for the subpoenas and warrants used to tap into millions of electronic communications of right-of-center groups and conservatives and to raid the homes of innocent citizens.

Haas told reporters he had a “marginal role” in the John Doe investigation. But Schimel’s report states, “Haas was involved with reviewing and editing court filings.” And previous emails released in court settlements show Haas was very involved in John Doe communications and meetings with GAB staff.

In a letter to Schimel claiming the DOJ report included inaccuracies and omissions, the state Ethics Commission claimed that it is the commissioners’ “understanding that the [‘opposition research’] file was one of the pieces of illegally seized data rather than a document prepared by a GAB operative.”

Schimel said the commission’s understanding is not accurate.

“Furthermore, it doesn’t even make any sense to assert that the Republican operatives that they collected this from would collect opposition research files and then fill them with personal emails of other Republicans,” the attorney general said.

The breadth of information and communications contained in the ‘Falk boxes,’ apparently as the result of the John Doe III investigation into Wisconsin Republicans, was breathtaking, the report stated. #wiright #wipolitics Click To Tweet

The report notes the kind of private information John Doe investigators grabbed up in their illegal searches, some of which was contained in what were described as “Falk Boxes.”

“DOJ was unable to determine why investigators ever obtained, let alone saved and labeled, over 150 very private and very personal emails between a Senator and her child, or why investigators placed those emails in a folder named ‘Opposition Research,’” the report added.

“The breadth of information and communications contained in the ‘Falk boxes,’ apparently as the result of the John Doe III investigation into Wisconsin Republicans, was breathtaking,” the report stated. “Just to illustrate this point, the investigators obtained, categorized, and maintained over 150 personal emails between Senator Leah Vukmir and her daughter, including emails containing private medical information and other highly personal information.”

“DOJ was unable to determine why investigators ever obtained, let alone saved and labeled, over 150 very private and very personal emails between a Senator and her child, or why investigators placed those emails in a folder named ‘Opposition Research,’” the report added.

The AG report details an expanded John Doe probe into a “broad range of Wisconsin Republicans,” a “John Doe III,” as described by the attorney general, that widened the scope of the so-called John Doe II investigation into dozens of right-of-center groups and scores of conservatives. Republican lawmakers, conservative talk show hosts, average citizens – even churches – were secretly monitored by the dark John Doe.

State Department of Justice investigators found hundreds of thousands of John Doe documents in the possession of the Government Accountability Board, long after they were ordered to be turned over to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The GAB, the state’s former “nonpartisan” speech cop and predecessor of the Ethics Commission, proved to be more partisan than originally suspected, the report found.

While the report is replete with criminal violations apparently committed by government bureaucrats and partisan prosecutors, Schimel said he could not issue charges in the illegal leaks. He said record-keeping and security at the old GAB and the Ethics Commission office were so sloppy that he cannot, beyond a shadow of a doubt, identify the leaker – although the report makes clear that the leaked documents more than likely came from within the GAB. Ethics Commission officials assert they cleaned up the security and record-keeping problems.

Schimel does recommend that the John Doe judge initiate contempt proceedings against nine John Doe investigation officers from the GAB, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office, and the special prosecutor, “to remedy violations of orders of the John Doe Judge and orders of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.” The attorney general said his recommendation is more “specifically outlined” in a separate letter to the John Doe judge.

  • mattlogan

    MI, please help me understand what this part of the DOJ report means:

    “DOJ does not currently possess proof beyond a reasonable doubt necessary to convict any particular person of a criminal offense at this time. “

  • GG_TPC

    The best thing we can do is make this pubic, the media is silent

  • Tired.of.the.LeftsBS

    So, do you believe this is a non-story? Do you believe the one sentence you quoted means there is nothing else to review or hold accountable?

  • mattlogan

    I asked what you think it means! I think that when a justice official concludes an in-depth investigation and finds no proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that the story is not worth covering. I am sure you would completely agree with that if we were talking about an investigation into Scott Walker or Donald Trump. Why not John Doe?

    And as I am sure you are unwilling to recall, the first John Doe investigation did succeed in producing convictions, as has the Mueller investigation (ok, an admission of guilt)….

  • Tired.of.the.LeftsBS

    If you recall, there are still mountains of data that have yet to be turned over to the DOJ including a very important hard drive that, in a very Clinton-esque fashion, is unable to be located. I believe it to be completely reasonable for the DOJ to finish their sentence with the phrase ‘at this time’. Any good reporter would see that as something worth column-inches. Matt Kittle has consistently been the best source in the state for staying on top of this sham investigation. Outside of Dan Bice from the liberal rag in Milwaukee who only wrote an article when he was illegally leaked information, it was Kittle that kept this debacle in the news.

    You are still terrible at trying to guess what I recall & believe, so let me help you. I’m satisfied that JD1 did clean up the relatively minor offenses outside of the ones that Scott Walker, himself, reported to authorities. So, whew, glad they performed pre-dawn, SWAT-style raids to acquire all that unbelievably damning evidence. (Yes, the sarcasm is thick. If the tables were turned, you & your leftist buddies would be supporting all of the reporting Kittle’s counterpart would be doing.) Unfortunately, JD2 & JD3 were farsical & complete wastes of time.

    ‘At this time’ I look forward to the DOJ continuing their work in upholding the law and Kittle continuing to report on all the developments.

  • Golden Rule

    DOJ cannot prove who leaked the information to The Guardian, which was a crime.

  • Golden Rule

    There was a recommendation for contempt of court charges.

  • mattlogan

    … which is not a criminal charge.

  • mattlogan

    So it could be Brad Schimel that leaked the information?

  • Golden Rule

    criminal contempt of court is a criminal charge

  • mattlogan

    No it is not. Ask Judge Arpaio – its why he was denied a Jury Trial. This fact is referenced in the prosecutions filing in the Arpaio case from March 2016, and is an artifact of US code.

  • Golden Rule

    In Wisconsin:

    785.04  Sanctions authorized.

    (1)  Remedial sanction….
    (2) Punitive sanction.

    (a) Nonsummary procedure. A court, after a finding of contempt of court in a nonsummary procedure under s. 785.03 (1) (b), may impose for each separate contempt of court a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year or both.

    (b) Summary procedure. A court, after a finding of contempt of court in a summary procedure under s. 785.03 (2), may impose for each separate contempt of court a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 30 days or both.

    785.01  Definitions. In this chapter:

    (1) “Contempt of court” means intentional:

    (a) Misconduct in the presence of the court which interferes with a court proceeding or with the administration of justice, or which impairs the respect due the court;

    (b) Disobedience, resistance or obstruction of the authority, process or order of a court;

    (bm) Violation of any provision of s. 767.117 (1);

    (br) Violation of an order under s. 813.1285 (4) (b) 2.;

    (c) Refusal as a witness to appear, be sworn or answer a question; or

    (d) Refusal to produce a record, document or other object.

    (2) “Punitive sanction” means a sanction imposed to punish a past contempt of court for the purpose of upholding the authority of the court.

    (3) “Remedial sanction” means a sanction imposed for the purpose of terminating a continuing contempt of court.

  • Golden Rule

    We still have sovereign states with applicable state law governing state proceedings and state lawyers.

  • mattlogan

    Odd, the word “criminal” does not appear in the sanctions section, and parallel to Federal law, it appears there is a limit of 6 months for imprisonment, which suggests Wisconsin treats contempt similarly to what I described. You really ought to read what you post.

  • Golden Rule

    “not more than one year” for each count, does not mean 6 months. Moreover, jail time if for committing crimes. Two classes of crimes are misdemeanors and felonies. You are what you are and you prove it with each post.