Lawyers’ Group: Sketchy Election Panel Using Personal Email For Official Biz

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September 5, 2017 5:45 p.m.

Members of President Donald Trump’s bogus “election integrity” commission vice chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) used personal email to conduct official business, plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the commission claimed Tuesday.

The claims appeared in a joint status report filed by both sides Tuesday in the case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Members of the panel “have been using personal email accounts rather than federal government systems to conduct Commission work,” according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed suit against the committee in July.

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The lawyers’ group said in the filing that the use of personal accounts is a violation of the Presidential Records Act and claimed that lawyers for the commission said “they did not yet have any settled plan for how they would collect emails from these personal, non-federal government systems.”

The lawsuit is against the panel at large, a number of its members and a number of federal offices.

The committee alleged in its lawsuit that the election panel’s “failure to disclose communications and make its meetings open to the public” was a violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

The law codifies guidelines to ensure advice given by federal advisory committees is “objective and accessible to the public.”

The committee sought a temporary restraining order and disclosure of documents by the panel, which a federal judge denied after the panel began to release some information.

According to the status report, the lawyers’ committee claimed that attorneys for the election panel said they would ask members “to search their own emails, unilaterally identify messages that they believe are relevant, and then forward those emails to Defendants’ counsel.”

The election panel’s lawyers countered, saying, “Defendants do not … recall making any definitive statements as to email addresses being used by non-federal commissioners,” adding that the email account is not entirely relevant.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to more clearly attribute plaintiffs’ claims about the use of personal email addresses and to make clear that it’s a point of dispute.

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