Thursday, November 12, 2020

Trump Also Cried Massive Fraud After 2016 Election

David A Graham of The Atlantic recalls the last time Trump cried massive fraud, after the 2016 election, when his infantile ego couldn't handle the fact that he'd lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.9 million votes. He convened a commission that found...nothing:

Despite having won the 2016 election, Trump insisted that he had been denied a victory in the popular vote by 3 million to 5 million unauthorized-immigrant voters. He did not provide any evidence for the claim, because there is none. As voting experts have noted for as long as the fraud claims have circulated, it is impossible to execute fraud on this scale....

Nonetheless, Trump announced in May 2017 that he’d convene a commission to study voter fraud. (This was the same week that the president fired FBI Director James Comey, welcomed Russia’s foreign minister and its ambassador, disclosed sensitive intelligence to them, and threatened Comey with the release of fictitious tapes. Also, Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel.)

The titular head of the commission was Vice President Mike Pence, a sign of the importance it held for Trump, but its effective leader was Kris Kobach, a Republican who was then the Kansas secretary of state. Kobach has been one of the most relentless voices claiming voter fraud, and was considered for positions in the Trump administration but not chosen. Several of the other members of the commission were similarly zealous boosters of the voter-fraud claim; there were a couple of token Democrats, too.

Almost immediately, the commission ran into trouble. With no credible evidence of fraud in hand to start proving the conclusion that both Trump and Kobach had clearly already reached, it had to turn something up, fast. In June, Kobach sent a letter to states asking for all publicly available voter data, including names, addresses, voting history, party affiliation, felony convictions, and the last four digits of Social Security numbers. (That is the information on which Kobach’s Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, a national database, runs.)

State officials and security experts, including many Republicans, reacted with horror. They said Kobach had offered no secure way to send the information, and in any case, there was no reason to believe that it would prove fraud. Besides, it would cost taxpayer money, could endanger privacy, and in some cases violated state law. “My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great State to launch from,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said of the commission and its requests. Election officials also complained that the commission was intimidating voters into canceling their own valid registrations.

These responses reflected an uncomfortable reality for Kobach: Though many Republican election officials support stricter voting laws, including such things as photo-identification requirements, they also take seriously that their job is to run elections smoothly and prevent fraud, and weren’t pleased about the implication that they were failing.

Without most of the data it had requested, and without any other evidence of fraud, the commission was stalled. In September, it held a meeting in New Hampshire to investigate Trump’s claim of fraud there, but Bill Gardner, New Hampshire’s secretary of state and a commission member, rebutted the claim. By October, two of the group’s Democrats were complaining that they had been shut out of deliberations and meetings. One of them, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, sued to demand access to commission material, and won.

In January, the group was finally put out of its misery, without releasing any findings. The Trump administration said it would not hand materials over to Dunlap, because the commission no longer existed, but a judge disagreed, and in August 2018, Dunlap released the documents he’d obtained. They showed that in its months of work, the commission had uncovered no evidence of fraud.

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