President Trump’s voter fraud commission has been dead for nearly a year and a half.
But the litigation spurred by its lack of transparency continues, with a judge on Tuesday suggesting that the administration misled the court about the appointment of certain commissioners. The discrepancy appears to be the date the administration gave for the appointment of Hans von Spakovsky, one of the commission’s most controversial members.
U.S. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly brought up the discrepancy in the lawsuit brought by a Democratic commissioner who accused the panel of excluding him from some of its work. She said in an order that internal communications about the commission she had recently viewed “raised a question about the timeline of appointments to the Commission.”
She mentioned a declaration filed “under penalty of perjury” in the court in 2017, by an official who aided the commission, that gave a “date that certain commissioners were appointed.”
Her order references a line in the declaration that indicates the appointment date of von Spakovsky, as well as J. Christian Adams and Alan King.
“Several public sources suggest that this representation is at least partially incorrect,” the judge said. She ordered the administration to file another declaration “identifying, under penalty of perjury, the dates on which each and every commissioner was appointed to the Commission and, where applicable, resigned from or otherwise left the Commission prior to its termination.”
Her order came as the administration and the Democratic commissioner, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, are currently fighting over whether the administration must turn over certain “emails discussing potential Commission members.” The judge had previously ordered that Dunlap have access to the emails, which are said to be some 20 documents.
The Department of Justice has described the emails in court filings as “the advice sought from these individuals is advice to be provided to the President in support of his exclusive duty to appoint members of the former Commission.”
The administration had requested that she pause the order while the Justice Department appeals it. In considering the request, the judge viewed the emails privately in her chamber, apparently prompting questions about when those commissioners were appointed.
President Trump announced he intended to name Von Spakovsky to the committee on June 29, 2017. Plans for Adams’ appointment were announced July 10, as was that of Alan King, a Democratic probate judge from Alabama.
It’s unclear if these announcements are the public sources Kollar-Kotelly is referring to. Von Spakovsky previously attracted scrutiny for sending a February 2017 email, ultimately forwarded to then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, criticizing plans to appoint Democrats and “mainstream Republicans” onto the commission.
There are other documents suggesting that von Spakovsky — as well as Adams, who works with von Spakovsky pushing voter restrictions — were involved in the commission before the ostensible July 11 date of their appointments.
Adams and von Spakovsky both emailed with commission aides, and with its vice chair, Kris Kobach, to edit a draft request for certain data the commission was planning to seek to compare with voter rolls.
Their email exchanges about the data request were happening as early as June 26, 2017, before even von Spakovsky’s appointment was publicly announced.
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