Discovery Dispute Surfaces Emails Between Ex Trump Voter Fraud Commissioners

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March 1, 2019 1:42 p.m.
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As part of a discovery dispute in a federal defamation lawsuit in Virginia, a former member of President’s Trump voter fraud commission filed several email communications he had with another ex-commissioner. The emails between J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky, two prominent advocates of restrictive voting laws, include discussions about the media rollout of two reports Adams assembled alleging that thousands of noncitizens were on the voter rolls in Virginia.

The emails became public last week during a discovery dispute in a defamation and voter intimidation lawsuit that Adams and his group, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, is facing. The lawsuit was brought by citizens identified in reports’ index as noncitizens who had registered to vote.

Much of the correspondence has to do with discussions about the media coverage of the reports, called “Aliens Invasion,” and other PILF projects. For instance, Adams and von Spakovsky celebrate the 2015 publication of an article written by PILF attorney Noel Johnson by the National Review. In another email, Adams informs von Spakovsky and others of his blog post and TV appearances promoting the Aliens Invasion report.

Elsewhere in the emails, von Spakovsky and Adams bash those critical of their work inflaming fears of mass voter fraud. In Nov. 2017 Adams sent von Spakovsky and some PILF employees a video of an interview Kristen Clarke, the leader of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, gave discussing PILF’s efforts to pressure local officials to purge voter rolls.

“Nasty Racist Kristen Clarke and Roland Martin attack PILF,” is the subject line of Adams’ email.

Logan Churchwell, a spokesperson for PILF, replied to the email stating “Clarke’s a carbon copy of Michelle Obama,” while von Spakovsky said it was a “sign of PILF’s effectiveness.” Adams asked the group if there’s anything they would add to his response to Clarke on Twitter.

 

They also complain about the coverage that University of California-Irvine Law Professor Rick Hasen gives their Alien Invasion report on his popular Election Law blog and a particular news article scrutinizing the report’s methodology.

“He is going to get very ugly toward me and Hans when/if we are nominated by the President to the Voter Fraud commission,” Adams said of Hasen. Adams and von Spakovsky were named to the commission the following month.

 

The commission was disbanded in early 2018, under a barrage of lawsuits.

In a Jan. 4, 2018 exchange, the morning after the commission was disbanded, Adams discusses a “plan” he came up with with van Spakosvky and Ken Blackwell, another member of the commission, to do “our own report (some of us.)”

“Hans will get someone helping at Heritage. But our organizations are going to produce it, not the Commission,” Adams said. He didn’t respond to TPM’s inquiry seeking confirmation that he was referencing Trump’s voter fraud commission.

 

On February 15, the challengers — who are joined in the case by the Richmond, Virginia, Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens — filed a request that the judge order Adams to produce documents in discovery that they claimed he was withholding.

Among the allegedly withheld documents they identified were Adams’ email conversations with von Spakovsky, a Heritage Foundation legal fellow who is also on PILF’s board of directors. The request took issue with Adams manually going through his emails and selecting the ones he deemed relevant, rather than having his lawyer apply a search term and sift through them that way.

Adams responded to the request with a declaration defending his approach to discovery production. He filed with it an exhibit of a sample of his conversations with von Spakovsky that he said had been previously produced. Adams said not all of his communications with von Spakovsky were relevant to the discovery request. He also said that he been told by von Spakovsky that the Heritage fellow had also been served a subpoena by the challengers in the case

The emails included begin in 2015, well before the first report at the center of the lawsuit, Aliens Invasion, was released in 2016. They continue through 2017, when Adams and von Spakovsky were serving on the commission, and into early 2018.

After a hearing last week, the judge in the LULAC lawsuit ruled in favor of the challengers’ request that Adams use the same process that PILF did in its discovery production.

Asked for comment on the dispute, Adams said in an email that TPM’s “interest in this case is selective because whenever plaintiffs lose motions TPM has no interest.”

“You behave like the PR firm for the plaintiff, and I’m sure it will make TPM’s funders happy,” Adams said.

Read the emails below:

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