Wisconsin Department of Justice investigators have no further leads to pursue in their efforts to determine the source of leaked documents gathered during a now-shuttered probe into Gov. Scott Walker and his allies, Attorney General Brad Schimel said Wednesday.
However, Schimel added, it is possible that new information could be revealed if contempt proceedings are initiated against several people including former employees of the now-defunct Government Accountability Board, as he has requested.
"That's possible," Schimel told reporters at the state Capitol Wednesday. "We’re seeking these contempt proceedings to remedy the problem that we believe there’s still some aspects of the information-gathering that haven’t been completely shut down and we want to make sure that does get completely shut down."
While investigators sought to determine who leaked John Doe documents to the Guardian U.S., much political hay has been made since the DOJ report was released over a "previously unknown and secret investigation into a broad range of Wisconsin Republicans" the report referred to as "John Doe III."
According to the report, more than 500,000 emails and private messages were found on hard drives in the basement of the former GAB in boxes labeled "Shane Falk," the name of a former GAB attorney. Also according to the report, thousands of private emails and instant message conversations from Wisconsin Republicans were held on GAB servers in folders marked "Opposition Research."
Ethics Commission chair David Halbrooks and vice-chair Katie McCallum disputed that element of the report, arguing the "Opposition Research" file was a piece of "illegally seized data" and not a document created by a GAB employee.
Schimel said the folder's metadata shows it was created on a GAB hard drive on April 10, 2012.
State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, is one of the 35 Republicans whose personal messages — including emails to and from her daughter — were collected in the file. Vukmir, who is running for U.S. Senate, wrote in a column published in the Wall Street Journal that she is considering "legal options for the invasion of my personal privacy." Vukmir has said she is "certain" the collection of her emails was politically motivated.
Schimel said he "certainly" has questions about what led to the authorization of the collection of Vukmir's and other Republicans' emails, but said he is more concerned with why the emails were retained.
He said he is not sure whether DOJ investigators looked at the search warrants that would have allowed the emails to be collected, adding that they didn't look at "every single warrant."
"We were investigating the leak, so we did not go into — that's not part of our investigation," Schimel said. "The questions we raise are 'Why do you have these? Why did you keep them? Why did you store them in folders?'"
Asked whether some of those answers might be contained in a search warrant, Schimel said: "I suppose. We can't fathom a rational reason why communications between a mother and daughter that don't have anything to do with politics, why that has anything to do with a John Doe investigation."