Allow me to excerpt some of the more damning finds in the report of the investigation of the GAB and the John Doe investigation:
Moreover, DOJ is deeply concerned by what appears to have been the weaponization of GAB by partisans in furtherance of political goals, which permitted the vast collection of highly personal information from dozens of Wisconsin Republicans without even taking modest steps to secure this information.
“Weaponization” is the right word. They were acting as a weapon of the Democratic Party and liberal establishment.
The prosecution team obtained additional “wide-ranging subpoenas and search warrants for 29 organizations and individuals, seeking millions of documents that had been created over a period of several years.” Two Unnamed Petitioners, 363 Wis. 2d 1, ¶ 2. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, referring to these additional subpoenas and warrants issued in October 2013, stated that the “breadth of the documents gathered pursuant to subpoenas and seized pursuant to search warrants is amazing.” Id. ¶ 29. The items seized included “business papers, computer equipment, phones, and other devices, while [the] targets were restrained under police supervision and denied the ability to contact their attorneys.” Id. These documents included “virtually every document possessed by the [targets] relating to every aspect of their lives, both personal and professional, over a five-year span (from 2009 to 2013).”
Everything. This is truly a sweep where government officials seized everything they could for the purpose of sifting through it and using it for whatever political or legal purpose they wanted. And they forced their targets into submissive secrecy – not even allowed to engage legal counsel. 4th Amendment be damned.
The information was duplicated, placed on portable drives, and distributed to various staff members at GAB for examination. Shockingly, despite the sensitivity of the information collected and the fact that the investigation targeted Governor Walker, there was no log kept of what was received by GAB staff, how many copies were made, to whom these records were given, or where these records were stored after the John Doe II investigation was closed.
That was on purpose. These are lawyers and they knew that if they were ever busted, they could blame sloppy record keeping and there is enough reasonable doubt to avoid being convicted. They were right.
The John Doe II core prosecution team included the special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, Milwaukee ADAs David Robles and Bruce Landgraf, Milwaukee DA investigator Robert Stelter, GAB attorneys Shane Falk, Kevin Kennedy, Jonathan Becker, and Nathan Judnic, GAB contracted investigators Doug Haag and Dean Nickel, and GAB staff employee Molly Nagappala. Then-GAB Staff Counsel Mike Haas was involved with reviewing and editing court filings. GAB board members at the time were Judges David Deininger, Gordon Myse, Michael J. Brennan, Thomas Barland, Thomas Cane, and Gerald Nichol. GAB Board members and DA Chisholm were kept advised of the investigation and reviewed documents that had been filed with the court, but neither the GAB Board nor DA Chisholm had possession of or access to the majority of John Doe II documents that were leaked to The Guardian
Remember those names. These are the zealots who used their official power to terrorize citizens and hunt their political opponents. All of them have lost the right to be considered anything other than unscrupulous ideologues.
Sometime in 2013, the core prosecution team decided to communicate with each other through Gmail accounts rather than use the secure Department of Administration email system.
The core prosecution team also decided that it would exchange documents, including several of the documents later leaked to The Guardian, with all members of the prosecution team via a cloud-based “Dropbox” account.
Again… to hide their illegal and unethical activity.
In sum, the leaked court filings show a specific intent to try to influence the United States Supreme Court as it was considering the pending petition for writ of certiorari in September 2016 by responding to particular parts of the opinion of the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Two Unnamed Petitioners. These leaked documents also indicate that the leaker has a sophisticated legal knowledge of the case and was motivated to try to influence the United States Supreme Court.
In other words, the illegal leaker was not just some schlub who wandered into the unsecure office and pilfered a few documents. The leaker knew what he or she was doing. It was one (or more than one) of the names above.
On the other hand, based on the evidence collected, DOJ assesses with reasonable certainty that the hard drive of Shane Falk is the only place where all of the leaked documents—court filings as well as Relativity emails—were located. Yet despite executing a search warrant at the offices of the former GAB and conducting numerous witness interviews, no one could account for Falk’s missing hard drive, which remains missing and unaccounted for to this day.
Someone is hiding the evidence. I’m sure that the hard drive is at the bottom of Lake Mendota.
Two weeks later, on January 27, 2014, at 9:55 a.m., Judge Peterson issued an order stating, “Property seized pursuant to search warrants shall not be examined by the State.” At 1:20 p.m. that same day, Shane Falk ordered Molly Nagappala to prepare a “data compilation” of donations to and from Wisconsin Club For Growth. Nagappala completed this task by reviewing “bank statements” seized as evidence in the John Doe II. This was in direct violation of the court order received by Falk just hours earlier.
Again, on February 6, Falk directed Naggappala to go into Relativity and print off emails seized from search warrants: “Periodically, you sent us some emails. Can you print out everything that you pulled out of Relativity and previously sent us? Then give a copy to Nate and one to me. Pretty please?” Again, this was in direct violation of Judge Peterson’s order.
Schmitz did not order Falk to stand down in light of Judge Peterson’s order. Instead, Schmitz responded that same day, stating, “I called Matt and he told me that Relativity is still up until the end of the month for now. So we should be able to access the information contained therein.” Relativity contained emails seized pursuant to search warrants, exactly the type of evidence that Judge Peterson ordered the prosecution team not to review.
In response to Schmitz’s permission, and despite the January 27 order, on February 13, 2014, Shane Falk directed Molly Nagappala to log into Relativity and download emails seized pursuant to search warrants:
These hacks were so brazen that they completely ignored the judges order. They considered themselves above the law. They were pulling the information out before the court took it away from them. One can only assume that all of this personal information about individual Republicans and conservatives is hidden away somewhere to be used by liberals at some future point.
One of their targets was State Senator Leah Vukmir, who is running for the U.S. Senate. If she wins the Republican nomination and is challenging Senator Baldwin next year, I guarantee than some salacious faux scandal will find its way into the campaign that has roots in this archive.
Buerger also notified DOJ of a file on their system entitled “Badger Doe.” DCI agents copied this drive, which comprised 1.318 GB of data, including 637 separate files in 31 folders. The Badger Doe drive, like the boxes of physical files and Gmail accounts, similarly included information, evidence, documents, and data derived from the John Doe II investigation, and remained in Ethics’ possession despite the December 12, 2015, order of the Supreme Court. Again, no explanation was provided by any member of the former GAB or any attorney involved in this investigation as to how or why this evidence remained in the custody of anyone other than the Supreme Court following its December 12, 2015, order.
AFTER the court had ordered all of the John Doe documents surrendered, the DOJ found thousands of other documents, Gmail accounts, digital files, etc. that were not surrendered. It appears that the miscreants were just making copies and scattering all of this stuff around. The report goes on for pages about them finding additional caches of files that were never turned over as ordered by the court.
It appears that prosecutors believed that Wisconsin Republicans were “coordinating” expenditures or campaigning on state time during the 2010 election and the subsequent 2012 recall election, and so prosecutors and the former GAB staff simply shared whatever evidence they could obtain related to Republican campaigning and fundraising. DOJ was not able to discern any limit into this investigation.
Of course, no charges were ever filed resulting from John Doe III, but the nature and scope of this investigation was exceedingly broad and, until now, unknown to the public.
Wisconsin’s unique John Doe law is supposed to be very defined. In exchange for extraordinary investigatory powers, investigators using a John Doe process are supposed to have a pre-defined scope that is overseen by a judge. In this case, the investigators were just using the John Doe process as a free-for-all to collect information on Republicans.
In the “Falk boxes,” three hard drives in particular contained nearly 500,000 unique emails (from Yahoo and Gmail accounts, for example) and other documents (email attachments, for example) totaling millions of pages. The hard drives included transcripts of Google Chat logs between several individuals, most of which were purely personal (and sometimes very private) conversations. GAB placed a large portion of these emails into several folders entitled, “Opposition Research” or “Senate Opposition Research.” DOJ has been unable to determine who labeled these emails as “Opposition Research,” what the purpose of this label was, or how these emails were to be used in the future. However, DOJ is deeply concerned by what appears to have been the weaponizing of GAB by partisans in furtherance of political goals. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive why GAB needed any information from GoDaddy.com related to former Republican Senate Leadership Association Chairman Ed Gillespie or why staff attorneys wanted information held by Google for Leonard Leo, Executive Director of the Federalist Society.
As far as DOJ has been able to determine from reviewing the hard drives in the “Falk boxes,” John Doe III investigators obtained the complete personal email accounts (in some cases multiple accounts per person), chat and messenger logs, – 65 – contact lists, IP login information, and similar information from other cloud-based accounts (such as Box.net) of the following individuals:
As you can see, there is no investigatory or evidentiary value for all of this personal data they collected. You can see their intent by the fact they they stored it in a box labeled “OPPOSITION RESEARCH!” This is information intended to make a political hit.
As would be expected in most personal email accounts, many of the conversations were private and personal. DOJ investigators were unable to determine why GAB investigators obtained, reviewed, categorized, labeled, and organized private emails of Republican political operatives, state employees, and other related individuals.
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. 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 – 67 – 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 Senator’s emails are just one example of tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of very personal emails located in the “Falk boxes.”
It goes on… I highly encourage you to read the report in its entirety. This is what a fascist government looks like. It was right here in Wisconsin. And some of the people who were involved with this are still sitting in government jobs and are still allowed to practice law in our state.
Three things need to happen:
- The individuals involved need to be held accountable to the full extent possible including stripping law licenses, holding in contempt of court, removing them from government offices, and anything else legal and appropriate.
- We must dispense with the notion that any government body should be “independent.” Visibility and oversight are the best protections against tyranny – not fantasies of “non-partisanship.”
- Wisconsin must do away with the John Doe law. It is a process too ripe for abuse. 49 other states manage to prosecute criminals without it and this investigation shows why we must ensure that investigators and prosecutors are forced to respect our civil liberties ad Constitutional protections.