Judge: Voter Fraud Panel Emails About Potential Members Can Be Withheld, For Now

PORTLAND, ME - NOVEMBER 8: Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap fields a phone call during one of several election day stops, to see how the polling process is going, at the Merrill Auditorioun Rehearsal Hall voting location in Portland on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. (Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer)
Portland Press Herald/Portland Press Herald
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A federal judge is letting the Trump administration continue to withhold certain emails related to the Trump voter fraud commission while the government appeals her order that the emails be produced for a Democrat who was on the commission.

The emails have to do with discussions the commission’s vice chair Kris Kobach had with fellow members Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams about other potential candidates for the now-disbanded panel.

A previously released email revealed that von Spakovsky and Adams had reached out to allies of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February 2017, as the commission was being assembled, to complain about the plan to put Democrats and “mainstream Republicans” on the panel. The email was quickly passed along to Sessions.

According to the opinion issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, an author of one of the emails being withheld shared “concerns about pending appointments.” She revealed that the individuals on the email chain were discussing a “batch of Democratic candidates” for the commission, from which only Alan King, a probate judge in Alabama, was appointed.

Democratic commissioner Matt Dunlap, who is the secretary of state of Maine, sued the commission in 2017 claiming that he was excluded from commission work. The lawsuit sought that the commission, which was disbanded in early 2018, produce scores of documents and internal communications he was not a part of.

He’s been largely successful in obtaining the materials, but there are a few batches of documents he and the administration are currently wrestling over.

In January, Kollar-Kotelly ordered that the administration produce emails it was withholding pertaining to discussions of potential commission members. When the administration asked for her to pause that order so that the Justice Department could appeal, she then requested to view the emails herself and when she did, noted — after asking for the dates the commissioners were appointed — that some were sent before Kobach, Adams and von Spakovsky were formally named to the commission.

On Friday, she said she was not going to “address any further the implications of” of that fact and other “new information” she learned when viewing the emails, “because the Court of Appeals is presently considering the Court’s Order to produce these emails.”

Read her opinion below:

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