The January 6 Hearings: Wisconsin Spotlight 

Updated June 13, 2022

Background: The United States House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (January 6 Select Committee) is holding oversight hearings in June 2022. It will present public testimony, evidence, and analysis relating to the January 6, 2021 attack, its run-up, and its aftermath. The attack and effort to undermine the will of the American voters did not happen in a vacuum. Fueled by misinformation and lies about the 2020 election, many of the key actors involved and key actions taken that contributed to the attack originated from the states. After all, while elections are national events, they are run and led by the states.

The States United Democracy Center has created a series of state-by-state guides to the January 6 attack highlighting activities that sought to undermine our free, fair, and secure elections. The Wisconsin Spotlight includes events in the state leading up to the January 6 attack, participation by Wisconsin actors in relevant events and the attack itself, efforts in Wisconsin to discredit or reverse the outcome of the presidential election, and subsequent post-January 6 events.


Supporters of then-President Donald Trump held rallies throughout the country attempting to discredit the 2020 presidential election process and challenging the official election results, including in Wisconsin, despite lacking factual basis for their allegations.

  • In the days after election day, November 3, 2020, Trump supporters protested outside the Wisconsin state capitol, “arguing amongst themselves about unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud[.]”[1] The Trump supporters were gathered there in part “because the president has spent the previous months, weeks and days falsely casting doubt on the validity of absentee ballots and the legitimacy of the results in the presidential election.”[2]

  • On December 7, 2020, Robert Spindell, Jr., a member of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), appeared at the “March for Trump” rally at the Wisconsin capitol.[3] The WEC administers and enforces Wisconsin election law.[4] At the rally, Spindell advanced allegations about election fraud in Wisconsin.[5]  MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell also headlined the rally and made unfounded allegations that “Trump lost Wisconsin because of issues with Dominion Voting System’s voting machines.”[6]

  • On December 7, 2020, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.[7] The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his case later that month and the State Bar of Texas has now pursued a complaint against Paxton, accusing him of professional misconduct relating to this litigation.[8]

  • On December 14, 2020, as detailed further in Section III, 10 Republicans convened to “cast votes” claiming to be an alternate slate of electors for Trump in Wisconsin, which did not reflect the decision of the state’s voters.[9]

  • Fifteen Republican Wisconsin state legislators (along with Republican legislators from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) signed a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, dated January 5, 2021.[10] The letter urged Pence to delay the counting of electoral votes for at least 10 days to allow the state legislatures time to certify or decertify the election.[11]

  • The same lies and conspiracy theories that fueled the January 6 attack contributed to threatening and violent messages aimed at election officials, including in Wisconsin. These threats were launched over email, voicemails, texts, letters, social media, and in-person events including gathering outside election officials’ homes.[12] They often expressed false claims that the election was stolen.[13]

The Washington Post compiled a timeline documenting how January 6, 2021 progressed from Trump’s “Save America” rally on the White House Ellipse to the breach and attack on the U.S. Capitol. Just Security and Protect Democracy compiled a primer that organizes and distills the multiprong campaign to overturn the 2020 election results.

  • Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein (owners of Uline shipping supply company in Pleasant Prairie, WI): The Uihleins contributed more than four million dollars to the Tea Party Patriots, whose members participated in the rally before the January 6 attack.[14]

  • Derrick Van Orden (Congressional candidate in Wisconsin): He was present at the January 6 rally.[15] Photos and video footage show him in what is reported to be a restricted area at the Capitol, which he has denied.[16]

  • Indictments: At least eight people with Wisconsin ties have been charged for their involvement in the January 6 Capitol attack and their cases have been progressing through the courts: Conlin Weyer, Riley D. Kasper, David Charles Mish Jr., Michael Fitzgerald, Kevin Daniel Loftus, Joshua Munn, Abram Markofski, and Brandon Nelson.[17]

  • On December 14, 2020, groups of Republicans in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin signed documents made to look official that represented the signatories as the duly authorized or potential alternate presidential electors for Trump, rejecting the will of the voters in their states.[19] The actions of these fake electors are the possible subject of state and federal criminal probes.[20]

  • On December 14, 2020, Wisconsin Republicans met secretly in the Wisconsin capitol building and filled out paperwork designed to look official while being protected by armed security.[21] Their meeting room was reserved by Scott Fitzgerald, who was then the Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate and is now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.[22]

  • After Trump’s fake electors’ submission was revealed, a formal complaint was lodged with the WEC. In March 2022, the WEC unanimously dismissed a complaint that the fake electors acted illegally.[23] Commissioner Spindell, himself one of Wisconsin’s fake electors, voted on the complaint’s dismissal rather than recuse himself. The WEC’s dismissal of the complaint is subject to ongoing litigation.[24]

  • On May 17, 2022, two Wisconsin Biden electors and a voter filed a lawsuit against the fake Trump electors who attempted to cast electoral ballots for Trump in 2020, as well as two attorneys who aided their efforts.[25]

  • The following individuals served as fake electors in Wisconsin:[26] Andrew Hitt (former chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin); Kelly Ruh (former alderperson in De Pere, Wisconsin); Carol Brunner (vice chair of Wisconsin’s First Congressional District GOP); Edward Scott Grabins (chair of Dane County GOP); Bill Feehan (chair of the La Crosse County GOP); Robert F. Spindell, Jr. (member of the Wisconsin Election Commission); Kathy Kiernen (chair of Wisconsin’s First Congressional District GOP); Darryl Carlson (executive director of No Better Friend Corp.); Pam Travis (vice chair Seventh Congressional District GOP and treasurer of the Wisconsin Federation of Republican Women); and Mary Buestrin (national committeeperson of the state GOP).

Wisconsin continues to be a hotbed of efforts to undermine nonpartisan election administration and spread disinformation about the 2020 presidential election results.

a. Prominent Anti-Democracy Visitors’ Activities in the State
  • John Eastman: On March 16, 2022, Eastman, a legal advisor to Trump, reportedly pressured Robin Vos, the speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, in a closed-door meeting to decertify the state’s 2020 electors. After that meeting with Speaker Vos, Eastman stated at an event at the Wisconsin capitol later that day that, “[t]he Wisconsin Legislature, therefore, in my view, not just up until Jan. 6 [2021], or inauguration, but today as well, has the ability to look at the assessment and say, you know, our election was illegally certified.”[27]

  • Mike Lindell: The MyPillow CEO gave a speech at a June 2021 rally in New Richmond alleging Trump was the “real president” and promising that Trump would soon be reinstated to the presidency.[28] He also made the factually baseless claim that the voting machines in Wisconsin were attacked by China.[29]
b. Known January 6 Select Committee Subpoenas to Wisconsin Actors

The January 6 Select Committee has “issued more than 100 subpoenas to lawmakers, internet and communications companies, Trump White House officials and others” including rally and event organizers.[30] Here are some examples of the Wisconsin actors that have received subpoenas from the committee.

  • Andrew Hitt (former chair of state GOP): Hitt served as a fake elector and has been subpoenaed by the January 6 Select Committee.[31]
  • Kelly Ruh (former alderperson in De Pere, Wisconsin): Ruh served as a fake elector and has been subpoenaed by the January 6 Select Committee.[32]
c. Partisan Election Reviews
  • Gableman investigation: In the summer of 2021, Speaker Vos hired Michael Gableman, a former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court with a controversial record, as special counsel to conduct an “investigation” of the 2020 election.[33] Commissioning a special counsel was unwarranted given that Wisconsin’s official presidential recount confirmed Biden’s victory[34] and the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau review also confirmed no widespread fraud or wrongdoing in the 2020 presidential election.[35]
    • The Gableman “investigation” has not adopted transparent or comprehensive procedures, nor has it articulated its scope.[36] The investigators have issued legislative subpoenas to the WEC and others that suffered legal deficiencies, and many were later retracted.[37] One subpoena asked for copies of all election project files used by the major election equipment vendors in Wisconsin in 2020, which contained highly sensitive data not normally reviewed in a professional audit.[38]
    • Gableman targeted the election grants from Center for Tech and Civic Life claiming without basis that grants were “election bribery” because it was used to increase Democratic turnout.[39] In reality, the grants were widely distributed to nearly 2,500 election departments across 49 states.[40]
    • Gableman himself has engaged in partisan behavior that undermines his ability to lead an objective investigation. He has publicly called for the 2020 election to be “decertified,”and before he began his role as special counsel, he concluded that the election had been stolen.[41]Since his appointment, Gableman has also been criticized for engaging in overtly partisan activities.[42]
    • Trump advocated for the continuation of the Gableman investigation and Vos extended Gableman’s legislative contract.[43]

  • Racine Sheriff investigation: After the 2020 election, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling was forwarded a complaint filed with the WEC regarding voting in nursing homes.[44] On October 28, 2021,10 months after receiving the complaint, the sheriff announced his conclusion that WEC commissioners violated the law when they directed local clerks not to send special voting deputies into nursing homes to help residents vote during the pandemic.[45] The district attorney declined to prosecute citing a lack of jurisdiction.[46]

  • Decertification: State representative Timothy Ramthun (R-Campbellsport) introduced a resolution calling for decertification of the 2020 Wisconsin presidential results. Ramthun is running for the Republican nomination to be governor and hosting rallies based on a platform that the 2020 election can be and should be decertified.[47] Eastman provided Ramthun with a memo, dated December 30, 2021, that claimed that there was sufficient cause to “warrant the Wisconsin Legislature taking back its plenary power” and even “adopting a slate of electors itself” at any time, even more than a year after the election.[48] At a March 2022 legislative hearing an attorney for Gableman admitted there is no legal means of decertifying the state’s 2020 presidential election results: “[I]t’s over then — can’t go back. There is no mechanism, no provision, no anything that would have any practical legal effect[.][49]

  • Dismantling the WEC: Since the 2020 election cycle, Republican legislators and candidates for office have harnessed election disinformation narratives that have spread about the WEC’s role in election administration and enforcement to call for the abolishment of the WEC and a transfer of its duties to the elected secretary of state.[50] In recent decades, Republicans have repeatedly changed the entity in charge of election administration and enforcement and some constituencies are concerned about bringing election administration under a partisan entity given the current political polarization within Wisconsin.[51]
d. Legislation to Change Wisconsin’s Election Laws
  • Legislators on both sides of the aisle in Wisconsin have introduced numerous election and voting rights bills during the legislative session on a variety of topics: absentee voting procedures, drop boxes, private funding for election administration, voting access for indefinitely confined voters, WEC policies and guidance, voter registration procedures and list maintenance, voter identification laws, in-person voting procedures, criminalization of election procedures and conduct, and the redistricting process.[52] There has not been a bipartisan consensus within the legislature on election and voting reforms, and the governor has vetoed the election legislation that did reach his desk during the 2021-22 legislative term.[53]

  • Since the 2020 presidential election and the January 6 attack, state legislatures across the country have considered a wide range of bills that would increase the risk of election subversion—that the purported outcome of the election does not reflect the choice of the voters. State by state, legislatures have moved to seize power from professional, non-partisan election administrators and to subject the running of elections to partisan influence and disruption. For more information about Wisconsin’s election subversion legislation, please see States United’s 2021 and 2022 report, written and published in collaboration with Protect Democracy and Law Forward.
e. Election Deniers Running for Wisconsin Statewide Office

Election Deniers are running for key constitutional offices in Wisconsin that have a role (or may in the near future)[54] in election administration and enforcement.[55] The state’s primary will be held on August 9, 2022.

  • Election Denier Attorney General Candidates

[1] Redman, H. (2020, November 8). Biden supporters celebrate, anti-vote protesters stand around, clash with BLM counter-protesters. The Wisconsin Examiner.

[2] See note 2. See also Kessler, G. and Rizzo, S. (2020, November 5). President Trump’s false claims of vote fraud: A chronology. The Washington Post.

[3] Redman, H. (2020, December 8) Election Official Joins ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally. Urban Milwaukee.

[4] About the Wisconsin Elections Commission. (n.d.). Wisconsin Elections Commission.

[5] See note 3.

[6] See note 3.

[7] Liptak, A. (2020, December 11). Texas files an audacious suit with the Supreme Court challenging the election results. The New York Times.

[8] Cobb T. (2022, March 8). State Bar Complaint Against Attorney General Ken Paxton to Proceed After Key Deadline Passes. The Texas Tribune.

[9] American Oversight Obtains Seven Phony Certificates of Pro-Trump Electors. (2021, March 2). America Oversight.; Sherman, A. (2022, January 28). What you need to know about the fake Trump electors. PolitiFact.

[10] The following Wisconsin state legislators signed the Pence letter: Sen. André Jacque (R-DePere) and Reps. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger), Robert Brooks (R-Saukville), Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago), Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), Gae Magnafici (R-Dresser), Dave Murphy (R-Greenville), Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz) Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Berlin), Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh), Tim Ramthun (R-Campbellsport), Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers), Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego). See Conklin, M. (2021, January 14). These 15 state legislators asked Pence not to certify election results. The Wisconsin Examiner.

[11] Letter to Vice President Michael R. Pence. (2021, January 5). The Wisconsin Examiner.; Timm, C. (2021, January 5). Fact check: No, Pence can’t overturn the election results. NBC News.

[12] O’Kane, C. (2020, December 7). Dozens of armed “stop the steal” protesters threaten Michigan Secretary of State outside her house. CBS News.

[13] Eisler, P., et al. (2021, December 30). Anatomy of a death threat. Reuters.

[14] Conklin M. (2021, January 15). Uihleins, owners of Wisconsin company, gave millions to group sponsoring the Jan. 6 March for Trump. The Wisconsin Examiner.

[15] Hovorka A. (2021, August 12).Donald Trump endorses Republican Derrick Van Orden to replace Democrat Ron Kind in 3rd Congressional District. Stevens Point Journal.

[16] Sollenberger R. (2021, Jun. 27). GOP Candidate Bankrolled Jan. 6 Riot Trip With Campaign Cash. The Daily Beast.

[17] Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (2022, May 25).8 Wisconsin men were charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection in Washington, D.C. Here’s the latest on their cases. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.; NPR Staff. (2022, June 3). The Capitol siege: The cases behind the biggest criminal investigation in U.S. history. NPR.

[18] Lerner K. (2022, February 2). Trump’s fake electors: Here’s the full list. The Wisconsin Examiner.

[19] American Oversight Obtains Seven Phony Certificates of Pro-Trump Electors. (2021, March 2). America Oversight.; Sherman, A. (2022, January 28). What you need to know about the fake Trump electors. PolitiFact.

[20] Feuer, A., et al. (2022, March 25). Intensifying Inquiry Into Alternate Electors Focuses on Trump Lawyers. The New York Times.; Polantz., K., & Reid, P. (2022, March 25). DOJ probe of fake elector plot seeks information about Trump’s top lawyers and advisers. CNN.; Boucher, D. (2022, January 19). Nessel: Fake GOP electors committed crimes, hopes feds prosecute ‘conspiracy.’ Detroit Free Press.

[21] Marley P. (2022, February 4).Wisconsin Republicans who posed as electors met in a ‘secret location,’ brought armed security with them, one member say. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

[22] Conklin, Melanie. (2022, January 27). Imposter electors tied to Fitzgerald, Kleefisch and Jarchow. Wisconsin Examiner.

[23] Richmond, T. (2022, March 15).Wisconsin Commission won’t punish fake electors. Associated Press

[24] Wisconsin’s Fraudulent Electors – Update. (n.d.). Law Forward.

[25] Associated Press. (2022, May 17). Lawsuit Seeks $2.4M Damages From Wisconsin Fake GOP Electors.  Associated Press.; Johnson S. (2022, May 17). Democrats file lawsuit against Wisconsin Republicans who posed as electors. Wisconsin Public Radio.; Epstein, R.J. (2022, May 17). Wisconsin Democrats Sue G.O.P. Fake Electors Over 2020 Scheme. The New York Times.

[26] American Oversight Obtains Seven Phony Certificates of Pro-Trump Electors. (2021, March 2). America Oversight.; Lerner, K. (2022, Feb. 2). Trump’s fake electors: Here’s the full list. The Wisconsin Examiner.

[27] Kroll A. (2022, April 11). Jan. 6 Architect John Eastman Is Still Plotting to Overturn 2020 Election. Rolling Stone.; Steakin W., Faulders, K., and Romero, L. (Apr. 11, 2022).Former Trump Lawyer, amid clash with Jan. 6 committee, pushing to decertify 2020 election. ABC News.; States United Democracy Center. (2022, April 14). Letter Re: Matter of John Eastman, Case Number 21-O-12451.

[28] Colvin, J. (2021, June 18). At pro-Trump rally in Wisconsin, attendees await return to office. Fox 11 News.

[29] Shalvey, K. (2021, June 13). MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell played a speech by former President Trump during his latest political rally. Business Insider.

[30] Schonfeld, Z. (2022, June 7). Here’s a list of the people who have been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee. The Hill.

[31] Vakil, C. (2022, January 28). Former chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena. The Hill.

[32] Associated Press. (2022, January 28). 2 Wisconsinites issued subpoenas from Jan. 6 committee. Associated Press.

[33] Beck, M. (2021, June 26). A former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice will oversee the latest election review sought by the state’s GOP leaders. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

[34]Associated Press. (2020, November 30). Completed Wisconsin recount confirms Biden’s win over Trump. Associated Press.

[35] White, L. (2021, October 22). Nonpartisan review of Wisconsin’s 2020 election finds no widespread fraud. Wisconsin Public Radio.

[36] White, L. (2021, November 10). Head of GOP-backed election investigation rebuffs calls for transparency, decries ‘obstruction.’ Wisconsin Public Radio.

[37] Redman, H. (2022, March 18). Fight over Gableman subpoenas continues, possibly further extending review. The Wisconsin Examiner.; Beck, M. (2022, February 17). Michael Gableman withdraws election investigation subpoena to immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

[38] Wis. State Assemb. Comm. on Campaigns & Elections (105th Leg., Reg. Sess.), Legislative Subpoena duces tecum to Election Systems & Software, LLC., Wis. Elections Commission, Special Counsel.

[39] Johnson, S. (2022, March 1). Gableman report calls for decertifying 2020 election. The Legislature’s nonpartisan lawyers say that’s not possible. Wisconsin Public Radio.

[40] Center for Tech and Civic Life. (2021, December 15). Final Report on 2020 COVID-19 Response Grant Program and CTCL 990s. Center for Tech and Civic Life. In July 2020, the mayors of Wisconsin’s five largest cities announced they secured over six million dollars. in grant funds from CTCL to support election administration in the pandemic. See Center for Tech and Civic Life. (2020, July 7). CTCL Partners with 5 Wisconsin Cities to Implement Safe Voting Plan. Center for Tech and Civic Life. Center for Tech and Civic Life. (n.d.). CTCL Form 990 (2019-2020). at pg. 282.

[41] Johnson, S. (2022, March 1). Gableman report calls for decertifying 2020 election. The Legislature’s nonpartisan lawyers say that’s not possible. Wisconsin Public Radio.; Marley, P. (2021, August 9). Michael Gableman Said Bureaucrats ‘stole our votes’ Before He was Put in Charge of Reviewing 2020 Election. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. politics/2021/08/09/michael-gableman-said-electionstolen-before-put-charge-wisconsin-review/5518815001/.

[42] Beck, M. (2022, April 8). On Steve Bannon Podcast, Michael Gableman Appeals to Trump Supporters for Help Keeping the Doors Open on His Wisconsin Election Review. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.; Marley, P. (2021, December 14). Gableman Touts Kleefisch’s Run for Governor, Asks for Support in Keeping His Election Review Going. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. https:// gableman-touts-kleefisch-pushes-keep-his-electionreview-going/8892104002/; Marley, P. (2022, April 7). Gableman Skips Election and Instead Visits Trump’s Resort as He Makes Baseless Voting Claims. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

[43] Beck, M. (2022, April 26). Robin Vos extends Michael Gableman’s Wisconsin election review after pressure from Donald Trump, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

[44] Redman, H. (2021, October 29). Racine Co. Sheriff alleges elections commission broke the law. The Wisconsin Examiner.

[45] Redman, H. (2021, November 3). Racine Co. Sheriff refers criminal charges against five elections commissioners. The Wisconsin Examiner.

46 Fannon, E. (2022, February 11). Racine County DA declines to issue criminal charges against state election commissioners. CBS58 WDJT-Milwaukee.

[47] Epstein, R.J. (2022, February 19). Fringe Scheme to Reverse 2020 Election Splits Wisconsin GOP. New York Times.

[48] Eastman memo to Ramthun – December 30, 2021. (2022, February 7).

[49] Redman, H. (2022, March 24). Gableman attorney says 2020 election can’t be decertified. The Wisconsin Examiner.

[50] Opoien, J. and Kelly J. (2022, February 9).Wisconsin Republicans race to reinvent state’s election system — again. The Capital Times.; IRG Policy Reform: Elections Accountability. (n.d.). Institute for Reforming Government.

[51] Richmond, T. (2022, May 7). Wisconsin GOP eyeing shift in control of election oversight. Associated Press.

[52] States Voting Rights Tracker – Wisconsin. (n.d.). Voting Rights Lab.

[53] Johnson, S. (2022, April 8). Gov. Tony Evers vetoes GOP election, gun bills. Wisconsin Public Radio.

[54] Beck, M. (2021, September 29). Wisconsin GOP lawmakers want superintendent, treasurer and secretary of state appointed, not elected. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

[55] Replacing the Refs. (2022, June 6). States United Action.