MADISON – The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is ordering two Wisconsin Republicans to testify about false paperwork they submitted in 2020 claiming to be presidential electors even though Democrat Joe Biden won the state.
Former Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman Andrew Hitt and Kelly Ruh, chairwoman of the 8th Congressional District GOP and a De Pere council member seeking reelection, received subpoenas from the panel known as the Jan. 6 committee that was formed in June to uncover information about the violent and deadly riots in Washington early last year.
The committee seeks to learn more, through witness testimony, text messages, phone calls, documents, and other evidence, about how the attack occurred.
The subpoenas issued Friday require Hitt and Ruh to hand over documents by Feb. 11 and to testify on Feb. 28.
"The Select Committee seeks information from you on a narrow range of issues. We have sincere respect for your privacy, and we are not seeking information about your political views or your efforts in the 2020 presidential campaign more generally. Rather, we are seeking information about your role and participation in the purported slate of electors casting votes for Donald Trump and, to the extent relevant, your role in the events of January 6, 2021," committee chairman U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said in the subpoena.
Hitt and Ruh were part of a group of Wisconsin Republicans who met in the state Capitol on Dec. 14 to draft false elector paperwork while Wisconsin's real members of the Electoral College, all Democrats, gathered in the state Capitol at the same time to deliver the state's 10 electoral votes to Biden.
Hitt is an Appleton attorney who stepped down as chairman of the state GOP last year. Ruh is a De Pere alderwoman who is up for reelection this year.
Hitt said in a statement he would comply with the subpoena. He said he had followed legal advice in meeting as an elector, but did not say who offered that advice.
"I absolutely will cooperate with the committee's request to provide information," Hitt said. "As I said in the past, the Wisconsin Electors were simply following the guidance of Wisconsin legal counsel to preserve the ongoing Wisconsin legal strategy. There was no intent beyond that and I’m happy to participate in this process to clarify any confusion that may exist."
Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell, who also met with Hitt and Ruh as a fake elector, has said the Wisconsin Republicans were following the directives of the Trump campaign.
The group signed official-looking documents stating Trump had won even though the state Supreme Court had ruled just an hour earlier that Biden was the victor. They sent the material to the U.S. Senate, the National Archives, Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette and a federal judge.
January 6 committee submits 14 subpoenas to Republicans acting as fake electors
The two subpoenas to Wisconsin officials were part of a larger group of 14 the committee issued on Friday to Republicans who acted as fake electors in seven states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“The Select Committee is seeking information about attempts in multiple states to overturn the results of the 2020 election, including the planning and coordination of efforts to send false slates of electors to the National Archives," Thompson said in a statement.
"We believe the individuals we have subpoenaed today have information about how these so-called alternate electors met and who was behind that scheme."
Trump and his campaign used the certificates the fake electors submitted to justify delaying or blocking the certification of the election by Congress on Jan. 6, according to the committee.
Paul Farrow, the chairman of the state Republican Party, portrayed the meeting of fake electors as routine even though it was exceedingly unusual.
The would-be electors met an hour after the state Supreme Court ruled Biden had beaten Trump in Wisconsin. They mailed their false paperwork to the National Archives two days later.
Later, Trump filed a last-ditch appeal of the state Supreme Court’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s high court dismissed the appeal within weeks.
Wisconsin Elections Commission has been considering complaint vs. Republicans
In a statement, Farrow said the Republicans who signed the paperwork did so based on legal advice, but he didn’t say who offered that legal advice. He also did not say whether the state Republican Party would provide Hitt and Ruh with legal representation to help respond to the subpoenas.
“That Democrats are now trying to fabricate a story from a simple procedure is nothing more than a desperate attempt to divert attention from their record as they face the electorate in 2022,” Farrow said.
The subpoenas were issued days after attorneys who filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission over the incident threatened to sue the commission for not acting quickly enough on the complaint.
The bipartisan state Elections Commission for nearly a year has been considering a complaint that alleges Republicans committed fraud when they signed the paperwork claiming to be electors.
On Wednesday, the lawyers for those who brought the case sent a letter to the commission saying they would take the matter to court soon if the commission does not act promptly or say how it plans to handle the case.
In response to the letter, a lawyer for the commission on Friday said the commission was likely to consider the matter behind closed doors on March 9.
Friday's subpoenas come amid a renewed focus on the would-be electors who gathered in Wisconsin and half a dozen other states that Trump lost.
Why did Republicans file paperwork as fake electors following 2020 presidential election?
The Republicans have said they filed paperwork as electors in case they won last-ditch lawsuits that sought to overturn the presidential elections. Democrats have said the Republicans committed fraud by posing as public officials and sending federal authorities false documents.
This week the U.S. Department of Justice also announced it is looking into the matter. Democratic U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan and Gwen Moore have asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate.
The commission has been handling the Wisconsin complaint in private and its deliberations have been complicated because one of its members, Spindell, was one of the 10 Republicans who met as presidential electors. Spindell has refused to step down from the case as a commissioner and has claimed his colleagues have tried to force him off of it.
Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Republican false electors subpoenaed by Jan. 6 committee