Administration

Trump: Voter fraud panel will find 'full truth'

President Trump warned of the dangers of voter fraud Wednesday, as he kicked off the first meeting of his voter fraud commission that has so far been mired in controversy.

Speaking to his Commission on Election Integrity, Trump called its work a "sacred duty" and said he hopes its findings will give way to the "full truth."

"Every time voter fraud occurs, it cancels out the vote of a lawful citizen and undermines democracy," he said at the meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House. "Can't let that happen. Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting, whether by noncitizens or the deceased, and any form of voter suppression or intimidation must be stopped."

Trump said the country has "no choice" but to investigate the election process.

"We have no choice. We want to make America great again," he said.

"We have to protect the integrity of the vote and our voters. This is not a Democrat or a Republican issue. It's an American issue. It's about the concern of so many Americans that improper voting has taken place and [is] cancelling out the votes of lawful American citizens."

Wednesday marked the first meeting of the Election Integrity Commission, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence, who spoke before Trump, defended the bipartisan nature of the commission in his opening remarks, arguing that election integrity "transcends party lines."

"This bipartisan group will perform a truly non partisan service to the American people," he said.

"This commission has no preconceived notion or preordained results. We are fact finders."

But despite those comments, the commission has faced choppy waters over the past few weeks.

A bipartisan group of secretaries of State and election officials balked at its recent request to turn over publicly available information on each state's voters. One Republican official, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, released a statement telling the commission to "go jump in the Gulf of Mexico."

Trump specifically called out states that have refused to send the information during his brief remarks on Wednesday.

"If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder, what they are worried about?" he asked.

"There's something, there always is."

Democrats have argued that Trump is fishing for proof of his claim that millions voted illegally during the 2016 presidential election, where he won the Electoral College by a healthy margin but lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

They've also sounded the alarm at the committee's roster, which includes Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission who now runs the Election Law Reform Initiative at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.

More recently, outside groups have sought to rein in the commission through lawsuits, arguing that it is flouting open-government laws and not adequately protecting Americans' voting information.

But the commission has argued in court that it's not evading federal laws because it's not a federal agency. Kansas Secretary of State and and co-chairman of the commission Kris Kobach (R) has brushed aside the criticism by arguing that the commission only wants to develop a full picture to advise the president on how to shore up the election system. Attorneys for the commission said in court documents that the panel reports directly to the president and is "solely advisory."

Trump's presence at the meeting is likely to further anger opponents who claim the commission has violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

The 1972 law requires the membership of the advisory committee to be fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented, the suit says, and ensures that "appropriate provisions" be made "to assure that the advice and recommendations of the advisory committee will not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority or by any special interest, but will instead be the result of the advisory committee's independent judgment."

The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the federal D.C. District Court in its lawsuit to require commission membership be fairly balanced and to force Trump to add a provision to his executive order to ensure the commission's work is not inappropriately influenced by special interests or the president himself.

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