Email #284: “distinct investigatory functions”?

Speaking as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, you explained in March:

“We believe both the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch have unique but distinct investigatory functions.  The Executive Branch uniquely investigates allegations of criminal wrongdoing… The Legislative Branch has a distinct constitutional role as well, in that it exercises oversight of the functions of the Executive Branch.  This Committee will, of course, continue to engage in oversight within our jurisdiction.”

Though the Executive Branch is currently exercising its distinct investigatory functions through the controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, you are not exercising your distinct constitutional role to engage in oversight of the Commission’s functions.

The Commission, as you of course know, was created in response to the President’s November tweet that “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” a claim rejected by GOP leaders, including Speaker Ryan who responded: “I’ve seen no evidence to that effect. I’ve made that very, very clear,” and Senator Graham who responded: “I am begging the president, share with us the information you have about this or please stop saying it.”

Instead of admitting that he had no such information, the President created the Commission. And rather than impartially investigating allegations of criminal wrongdoing, the Commission is attempting to justify the President’s unfounded claim.

While biased from its conception, now that the Commission has begun investigating, that bias has grown more overt. The Commission’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, published an article in the alt-right website Breitbart earlier this month claiming that “facts have come to light that indicate that a pivotal, close election was likely changed through voter fraud.” This assertion has been widely rebuked and openly mocked. Although Kobach had previously stated that the Commission should have no “preordained” or “preconceived” notions, his article demonstrates the opposite by interpreting same-day registrations in New Hampshire college towns as “out-of-staters” heading “to the Granite State to cast fraudulent votes.” This is not a “likely” interpretation of the data, and Kobach has since backtracked, explaining that “It’s a very difficult issue to condense into a short article.”

First, why was a co-chair of an executive branch investigation writing an article for a website with an extreme rightwing bias? It would be equally inappropriate if Democrats on the Commission were writing content for the Daily Kos and its deeply leftwing readers. Second, why was the vice chair writing a news article at all? That’s more egregious than leaking information to reporters. Shouldn’t the Commission’s findings be carefully weighed and then released as an official report when complete?

Since, as you stated, the House Judiciary Committee “will, of course, continue to engage in oversight within our jurisdiction,” specifically oversight of the executive branch’s investigatory functions, what are you doing to oversee the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity? If the issue is integrity, the Commission is damaging both the Trump administration’s and now, because of your inaction, the House Judiciary Committee’s.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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