Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"We should worry about the security of the data. States have absolutely no confidence that the Trump administration will protect it. They also have every reason to fear Trump will misuse it." (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Trump Election Commission Exists Solely to Justify a Trump Lie

E.J. Dionne

 by The Washington Post

President Trump had some remarkable things to say at the inaugural meeting of his Commission to Promote Voter Suppression and Justify Trump’s False Claims, which is formally known as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. He also asked a question that deserves an answer.

Lest anyone believe Vice President Pence’s claim that “this commission has no preconceived notions or preordained results,” Trump was on hand last week to state clearly what its agenda is.

With the resignation of Sean Spicer as White House press secretary and the rise of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications czar (an appropriate word these days), the television cameras are riveted on the latest reality show, “Spicey and The Mooch.” But we dare not lose track of the threat the Trump administration poses to the most basic of democratic rights.

Remember that in January, Trump told congressional leaders that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes were cast in last year’s election and that they were the reason he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.9 million.

There is not a shred of evidence for this — none, zero, zilch. Trump’s defenders could find no plausible way to support his statement, which is not unusual. But Trump never backs off from a falsehood. So instead, he did something without precedent: He appointed a presidential commission solely to justify an offhand lie.

And now that this body exists, it will almost certainly try to find ways to rationalize purging legitimate voters from the rolls and erecting yet more barriers to voting.

Trump would not let the commissioners forget their reason for being there, his belief that those phantom votes really exist, although he put his own words into the mouths of unnamed “people,” who — surprise! — came to the same conclusions he did.

“Throughout the campaign and even after it,” Trump said, “people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities, which they saw. In some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.”

The commission issued a sweeping request to the states for data that included everything from voters’ Social Security numbers, military status and party affiliation to information on felony convictions.

Trump purported to be pleased because “more than 30 states have already agreed to share the information with the commission.” In truth, the request has been met with widespread resistance from Republican as well as Democratic officials. As of July 8, the Associated Press reported , not a single state was in full compliance. The Republican secretary of state of Mississippi, Delbert Hosemann, spoke for many of his colleagues (with a regional twist) when he told the administration to “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Trump is not happy, and he responded in the way he knows best: with innuendo questioning the motives of others. “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about. And I asked the vice president, I asked the commission: What are they worried about?”

Excellent question. Here’s what we should worry about.

We should worry about the security of the data. States have absolutely no confidence that the Trump administration will protect it. They also have every reason to fear Trump will misuse it.

We should worry because his commission is the furthest thing imaginable from a dispassionate investigation into voting procedures.

We should worry because Kris Kobach, Kansas’s secretary of state, is vice chairman of the commission. Kobach is a voter suppression fanatic. He is also a Trump flunkie. The Post’s Philip Bump, who is doing an excellent job covering this charade, noted that when NBC’s Katy Tur asked him about Trump’s claim of 3 million to 5 million fraudulent votes, Kobach replied: “We will probably never know the answer to that question.” Sorry, but we do know, and if Kobach thinks we don’t, not a single state should trust him with a single bit of information.

We should worry because, as Ari Berman noted in the Nation, a new study by MIT found that 12 percent of the electorate in 2016 encountered a problem voting, and the Brennan Center for Justice reported that more states have enacted new voting restrictions in 2017 than in 2015 and 2016 combined. This commission will push states to enact even more laws like these.

We should worry because the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and this Congress has shown no signs of wanting to fix it.

We should worry about the Trump administration closing civil rights offices and the Justice Department switching sides in voting rights cases. As Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said: “I am old enough to remember when African Americans were denied access to the ballot box, and I fear that we are watching history repeat itself.”

We should worry that Elijah Cummings’s intuition is right.

© 2021 Washington Post
E.J. Dionne

E.J. Dionne

E.J. Dionne writes about politics in a twice-weekly column for the Washington Post.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Local Democrats Nationwide to Congress: 'Don't Come Home' Until Biden Agenda Passed in Full

Democrats "ran on a bold agenda to help our nation roar back from the coronavirus pandemic," said the lawmakers, "and now we need to keep our promises."

Kenny Stancil ·

'Half-Measures Are No Longer Enough': Haaland Urged to Sign Order to Halt Extinction Crisis

"The United States can restore its position as a global leader in conservation and prevent many of these extinctions, but it must take swift action that matches the extent and scale of the problem."

Brett Wilkins ·

Despite Outcry, Japanese Prime Minister Urges Swift Release of Fukushima Wastewater Into Sea

South Korea has said the release of the radioactive wastewater poses a "grave threat" to marine life.

Julia Conley ·

Manchin Sparks Fury With Demands for Work Requirement, $60K Income Cap on Child Tax Credit

"Who besides a cartoon villain would ever think this is a good idea?"

Kenny Stancil ·

Colin Powell, Who Helped George W. Bush Lie Nation Into Iraq War, Dead at 84

"It's crucial to remember just how important Colin Powell was to selling the Iraq War, and how deliberately he used his public credibility to boost the lies that pushed us into the war. That is his biggest legacy."

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo