Barney Henderson, Telegraph, May 11, 2017
Donald Trump has signed an executive order to create a commission to investigate voter fraud and voter suppression in the United States.
Despite the firestorm triggered by his shock sacking of James Comey, the FBI director, on Tuesday evening, Mr Trump signed the order on Thursday establishing the bipartisan Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
The US president has made several unsubstantiated claims that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election with several million “illegals” voting for Hillary Clinton.
While Mr Trump won the election by 304 electoral college votes to 227, Mrs Clinton comfortably won the popular vote, receiving around 2.9 million more votes nationwide – a fact that Mr Trump is said to be irritated by and does not accept.
The commission, which will be chaired by Mike Pence, the US vice president, will investigate allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration in states and across the nation. It is expected to take a year to compile a report.
“The commission will review policies and practices that enhance or undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of federal elections – including improper registrations, improper voting, fraudulent registrations, fraudulent vote and voting suppression,” an unnamed White House official said.
Kris Kobach, the hardline Kansas secretary of state, who has played a leading role in the drive to crack down on undocumented immigrants will be appointed vice president of the commission.
The move was immediately criticised by civil rights groups, who claimed it was a voter suppression tactic and that Mr Kobach would use his position on the commission to try to prevent minority groups from voting.
“Kris Kobach being named to run a commission on ‘voter integrity’ is like naming Bernie Madoff to run a commission on financial crimes,” Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund, told the New York Times.
“He has dedicated his professional career to trying to deny people of colour the vote and to trying to drive millions of immigrants out of the country.”
Michael Waldman, president of the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice, said the commission was formed to “find proof of the president’s absurd claim” about millions of people voting illegally. He noted that it came in the aftermath of Mr Trump’s firing of Mr Comey.
“He fired the person investigating a real threat to election integrity, and set up a probe of an imaginary threat,” Mr Waldman said.
Mr Trump has previously claimed that between three and five million undocumented immigrants voted illegally last November.
“They all voted for Hillary. They didn’t vote for me. I don’t believe I got one,” he said in January.
In February, Mr Trump claimed he would have also won New Hampshire if it had not been for voters bused in from outside the state. New Hampshire officials have said there was no evidence of major voter fraud.
Voting experts and both Democrats and Republicans have said there is no evidence to suggest that millions of people voted illegally, including Jason Chaffetz, the House Oversight Committee Chairman.
Democrats have frequently accused Republicans of trying to suppress turnout among minority and low-income voters. They have accused Republicans of erecting unnecessary hurdles for voter registration and intimidating voters.
The new commission comes at the same time as several investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the November election.
Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, said on Thursday that a controversial surveillance law that allows the broad electronic spying of foreigners played a major role in understanding Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The authority to spy on foreigners, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, expires at the end of the year.
Privacy advocates have for years said Section 702 allows for excessively broad surveillance, including warrantless access to some American communications, and should be reformed to include new curbs.
“I would highlight much, not all, much of what was in the intelligence community’s assessment, for example, on the Russian efforts against the US election process in 2016, was informed by knowledge we gained through (Section) 702 authority,” Mr Rogers said.