A spokesman for Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said that Schimel misspoke last week when he said a voter fraud investigation had been closed. Schimel’s office last week, responding to an open records request by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, released a memo saying an investigation into video shot by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas did not offer proof of voter fraud:
“Based on all the available facts I do not believe there is any basis to conclude that the videos demonstrate or suggest violations of Wisconsin criminal laws,” Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte wrote in a Jan. 31 memo ending the investigation.
On Thursday Schimel, in an interview with Wisconsin Radio Network, defended the handling of the investigation and reiterated that the probe was closed:
“We did take it seriously and looked at this to see whether there was something we could pursue…and just concluded there’s not anything that presented itself as a viable investigatory lead,” Schimel told WRN in an interview Thursday.
Schimel said there were two main issues with the video – it was not clear where the discussions took place and it was not clear when. “If it’s not specific enough that we can identify who did something, where they did it, we don’t even know where to start,” he said.
O’Keefe then sharply criticized Schimel for suggesting Project Veritas’ work was “suspect.”
Schimel then lit up the internet when he went told Milwaukee talk show host Mark Belling that the investigation, was in fact, not closed:
Schimel told Belling he didn’t know the third video was available until this week and had now requested it. He said allowing Veritas to blur the person’s face would protect the person from becoming “a target for every angry yahoo out there.”Schimel also noted that O’Keefe claims to have more than 100 hours of footage of liberal organizer Robert Creamer of Democracy Partners.
“We’re going to be interested in that,” Schimel told Belling, though it is unclear how much of the footage might have been shot in Wisconsin.
So, why did Schimel tell WRN on Thursday the investigation was closed and then later tell Belling it was still open? Schimel spokesman Johnny Koremenos told Media Trackers Monday Schimel hadn’t flip-flopped. Rather, he misunderstood the question from WRN: “It was misspoken; the investigation was ongoing. I don’t think he meant to validate any previous assertion the investigation was closed.
However, Schimel is clearly heard in the WRN audio identifying reasons why he did not think the actions seen on the video were prosecutable. In fact, the WRN story headline is: “Schimel Defends Decision to Drop Investigation of Activist Video:”
We took a look at it and assessing what was on the videos, there are a couple problems. One is that we can’t put a time frame on it…If they didn’t happen within the statute of limitations, which for misdemeanors is three years…there is nothing we can do; it’s not prosecutable. And second, if it’s not specific enough that we can identify who did something; where they did it, we don’t even know where to start an investigation. So, we looked at this…when we do an investigation, after we close it(emphasis ours), it is public record and, therefore, the members of the media wanted to see the investigation. They were able to get their hands on that…
Koremenos elaborated to Media Trackers on his statement last week that the memo should not have been released:
The problem is, the assistant attorney general who prepared the memo doesn’t have the power to open or close the investigation. The Attorney General had not been consulted on that. I think the investigation has been opened, remained open. We have additional evidence from Project Veritas that we had been seeking. It is open and we’ll follow all leads to make sure we get to the bottom of all alleged activity and see if there is anything there to be pursued. We will put anyone away that deserves to go away for breaking state law.
Koremenos stressed that the investigation had never been closed, and said Schimel’s comments to Belling were not a reaction to O’Keefe’s scathing video criticism. “There was a misunderstanding into what was being asked(by WRN) as to how it pertained to the investigation. The investigation is open and has been open.”