Judge Orders Kobach To Hand Over Doc Caught In Photo-Op With Trump

Peter Foley/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

A judge has ordered Kansas’ secretary of state to turn over notes he was holding that may have detailed a plan to amend the National Voter Registration Act during a photo-op with Donald Trump in November.

Kris Kobach, who was reportedly under consideration to join the Trump administration at the time, was photographed by the Associated Press with Trump outside of Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where Trump was interviewing candidates for positions in his administration. Kobach was holding printed pages with the title “Department of Homeland Security: Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days.”

The document also outlined proposals like “extreme vetting” and a halt on accepting Syrian refugees that later appeared in Trump’s presidency.

On Wednesday, Magistrate Judge James O’Hara ordered Kobach to give a copy of that document to the court for review, though the judge stopped short of saying that Kobach had to hand it over to plaintiffs — at least for now.

The plaintiff in this case is Wayne Fish – represented by the ACLU, ACLU of Kansas, and Dechert LLP – who is suing Kobach over Kansas’ strict voting laws; specifically, the requirement to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote at the DMV.

Part of Kobach’s document, though it was cut off in the AP photograph, read: “Draft Amendments to National Voter…” perhaps reading in full “National Voter Registration Act” (NVRA), the federal law that courts have found Kobach to have likely violated several times over the past year.

On Sep. 29, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s injunction against Kansas’ requiring voters to present proof of citizenship while registering to vote at the DMV.

That court, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, contemplated a “two-step” analysis to determine the legality of Kobach’s proof of citizenship requirement: First, whether a “substantial number of noncitizens have successfully registered to vote” as a result of simply being asked to certify their citizenship; and second, whether documentary proof of citizenship was the “minimum amount of information necessary” necessary to determine eligibility to vote.

Under those guidelines, the plaintiffs asked to see the document Kobach was pictured with outside Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

“Material related to a potential NVRA amendment could bear on [documentary proof of citizenship’s] effectiveness when compared to other potential means of assessment,” O’Hara wrote in his order Wednesday.

“And if the documents indicate defendant proposed amending the NVRA to require [documentary proof of citizenship] as the only method for demonstrating voter eligibility, such information would bear on whether defendant can satisfy the current standard for demonstrating DPOC is the least burdensome method of preventing substantial numbers of noncitizens from registering to vote.”

H/t Politico.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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