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.

Email #215: “VOTER FRAUD”?

The President tweeted last week: “Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?”

Setting aside the irony of the President suggesting anyone who does not disclose information must be hiding something, you must be pleased that Vice President Pence is leading the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The President said in November: “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” and then promised in January:

“I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and…. even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!”

When you were asked about voter fraud in Virginia during the November election, you answered, “There’s a long history of voter fraud in this country,” then you repeated a joke about Virginians wishing to be buried in a certain district to keep voting after their deaths, and then finally you referenced an unnamed group “affiliated” with the Democratic party registering dead people in our district in 2016. I asked you for more information about that, but you did not reply and I have not heard anything about it from any other source then or afterwards.

So I’m glad Vice President Pence will now finally be getting to the bottom of all this. Of course Virginia Governor McAuliffe just announced that Virginia will not comply with the Commissions’ request for voter data:

“I have no intention of honoring this request. Virginia conducts fair, honest and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia. At best, this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression.”

What do you think our governor is hiding? And what do you think the other 43 states who joined him are hiding too? Maybe now would be a good time for you to release your information about that voter fraud group you mentioned in January. Or are you hiding something too? The fact that your comments were completely baseless and motivated solely for the purpose of sycophantically supporting the President? If nothing else, at least the voter fraud panel will reveal that.

Email #51, Subject: massive voter fraud?

When asked this week about the White House’s allegations of massive voter fraud, Speaker Ryan answered: “I’ve seen no evidence to that effect. I’ve made that very, very clear.” I’m impressed the Speaker is willing to contradict his party’s leader when he knows the President is wrong. That takes integrity. You, on the other hand, have said nothing. You’re the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee with a responsibility for overseeing ethics in the federal government, specifically overreach by the executive branch, and yet you have said nothing in response to the President’s statements. If you believe they’re true, say so. If you believe they’re false, so that instead. But understand that your silence is eroding public trust in your ability to govern and oversee properly.  It appears cowardly and cynical. It appears that you are willing to ignore lies from the executive branch as long as the executive branch doesn’t block your personal agenda. Take a stand. There is no issue more central to democracy than the legitimacy of our elections.

Chris Gavaler