Trump’s presidential voter fraud commission was short-lived, rarely met
ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Fresh off his win against Hillary Clinton in November, President-elect Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that he won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
Months later, he signed an presidential executive order on May 11, forming the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.
But the commission would be short-lived. With another executive order Wednesday, Trump abruptly ended his commission and its efforts to investigate his unproven claims that millions of illegal votes occurred in the 2016 election.
The team only held two meetings total and found itself “bogged down” in litigation during the roughly seven months it operated.
Multiple states refused to turn over voter registration information to the commission as part of its inquiry into alleged widespread fraud in 2016 and previous elections. At least one lawsuit was brought by a Democrat who was actually on the commission, claiming he’d been illegally denied access to some documents.
The commission was dissolved “rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense,” according to a statement from press secretary Sarah Sanders.
President Trump made investigating voter fraud a top priority in the immediate aftermath of his election victory, alleging that three million to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election that saw his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton win the popular vote by nearly three million ballots. There has been no evidence to support the claims.
Sources say the timing of the dissolution of the voter fraud commission — announced late on Wednesday night in the midst of a busy news cycle — may not have been accidental.
According to a senior administration official, the White House released the voter fraud commission statement Wednesday night because they thought – from a communications perspective — it wouldn’t get much coverage due to interest in the Michael Wolff book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which is set to be released Friday.
Trump’s former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is quoted in the book as suggesting that Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
Sanders confirmed that Trump was disgusted and furious with Bannon’s comments and the president released a scathing statement last night, suggesting Bannon “lost his mind” after being fired.
While Bannon had strongly supported the commission, a senior official told ABC News that disbanding it had nothing to do with Bannon himself. The White House dissolved the commission because “it was a mess,” the official said.
Trump tapped his vice president, Mike Pence, and the Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, to lead the commission as chair and vice chair.
The commission held its first phone call at the end of June, the same day that it sent every state election official a request to turn over “publicly-available data from state voter rolls and feedback on how to improve election integrity” by July 14.
A majority of the states refused to fully comply with the request. Some states were barred by local law, some cited privacy concerns, and other states flat out refused unless there was a formal request process or received a payment.
In July, 14 lawsuits had been filed against the commission over its request.
On Twitter Thursday morning, Trump accused “Democrat States” of refusing to hand over information “because they know that many people are voting illegally,” and saying “the system is rigged.”
The president was in attendance for the commission’s first meeting at the White House on July 19.
He suggested that the states that didn’t comply with the commission’s request might have something to hide.
“If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they are worried about… There’s something, there always is,” Trump said.
The panel gathered for a second — and final time — in New Hampshire in September. Kobach had been planning for a third meeting this month, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal. In its final months, the commission’s small staff found itself “bogged down” in eight lawsuits, according to Kobach.
Besides the lawsuits from advocacy groups over its request for voter data, the commission faced a lawsuit, which was settled in December, from one of its Democratic members who argued he had not been able to gain access to the commission’s materials.
Though the commission is no more, Sanders announced in her statement Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security would review the commission’s findings and determine what to do next.
“What’s happening is a tactical shift where the mission of the commission is being handed off to Homeland Security without the stonewalling by Democrats,” Kobach told Breitbart News. ABC News reached out to Kobach’s commmunications director Wednesday night.
Kobach also said he would be working with DHS to continue the investigations into voter fraud.
An ABC News fact check in January 2017 found the claim about massive widespread voter fraud was disputed by election officials across the country. After contacting officials in all 50 states to ask for the number of voter fraud instances in the 2016 election, the 20 states that responded all said voter fraud was not widespread. Most said “very” or “extremely” rare.
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