A set of potentially juicy emails from President Trump’s disbanded voter fraud commission will likely never see the light of day, due to an appeals court decision issued Friday.
The Trump administration is not required to turn over certain emails from the defunct commission to a Democratic commissioner who sued for them, an appeals court said.
While the commissioner’s lawsuit has largely been successful in getting him access to the documents and commission work he said was withheld from him, there has continued to be a dispute over a set of those emails.
Specifically, the administration has resisted handing over to the ex-commissioner, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, emails other members of the panel sent to the administration staff organizing the panel about potential commissioners.
A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed the decision of a district judge ordering that those emails be produced.
“Private emails between Executive Branch officials and individuals who served as commissioners about potential additional commissioners are quite distinct from these examples of documents about the Commission’s ongoing, substantive work,” the appellate court said.
Dunlap sued the commission in the fall of 2017, a few months after the controversial commission was launched, alleging that he had been illegally cut out of its work.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a preliminary injunction that December ordering the production of the records. Less than two weeks later, Trump announced he was dissolving the commission, citing specifically the burden of Dunlap’s and other lawsuits brought against the panel.
But the litigation over the withheld documents continued, even as the administration eventually turned over the bulk of the records Dunlap requested. Over the course of the case, it was revealed that the administration was withholding emails from voter fraud alarmists J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky, both members of the commission, in which, according the judge, “potential Democratic commissioners” were discussed.
A separate email, released under a Freedom of Information Act request, revealed that in early 2017, as the administration was working on the creation of the commission, von Spakovsky had reached out to allies of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The email raised alarm that “they are going to make this bipartisan and include Democrats. There isn’t a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud and issue constant public announcements criticizing the commission and what it is doing, making claims that it is engaged in voter suppression.”
“Christian and I are concerned that this commission is being organized in a way that will guarantee its failure,” the email said.
Whether the other emails withheld expressed similar sentiment will remain unknown, for now. A lawyer for Dunlap did not respond to TPM’s inquiry as to whether he appeal the case to the full appeals court.
Read the appeals court opinion below: