The work of investigating President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE's claim that millions of people voted illegally in the last presidential election and cost him the popular vote — an idea he's presented without providing any evidence — now lies in the hands of officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), after Trump disbanded the commission originally charged with the investigation.
Trump dissolved the controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity late Wednesday and turned its work over to DHS "rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Trump's decision comes after the commission grappled with data security concerns and widespread opposition from state governments, including both Democrats and Republicans, who refused to fulfill the commission's wide-ranging requests for voter data.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a prominent supporter of stricter voting laws who served as the commission’s vice chair, told Politico he expects Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take over the commission's work and start comparing state voter rolls to federal databases of noncitizens.
But whether ICE actually plans to take over the investigation, or take any larger role in voting, is unknown. In a statement, a DHS spokesman said that Kobach’s job in the federal voter fraud case is done.
“At the President’s direction, the Department continues to work in support of state governments who are responsible for administering elections, with efforts focused on securing elections against those who seek to undermine the election system or its integrity,” Tyler Houlton, an agency spokesman, said.
“Mr. Kobach is not advising the Department on this matter.”
Hans von Spakovksy, a former member of the Federal Election Commission and one of the voter fraud commission’s most controversial members, said he was disappointed but not surprised by Trump’s move.
Not only did state election officials refuse to cooperate with requests for voter rolls, he said the commission was hampered by almost a dozen “meritless” lawsuits.
“I lost count after eight,” he said.
The commission was met out of the gate with opposition to its request for states to hand over voter roll information, including names, voting histories and — most controversially — the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers.
Officials in 14 states and the District of Columbia refused to comply with information requests from the panel.
Spakovsky, a long-time supporter of voter ID laws, said he hopes DHS knows and understands what it is they need to do and works with the Department of Justice to obtain the voter roll information the commission couldn't.
“I don’t think it’d be difficult to do a search through their citizenship application files to find those people who admitted that they registered to vote and voted in an American election,” he said.
Dan Cadman, a retired Immigration and Naturalization Service and later ICE official official who now works as a research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, said immigrants are asked questions about whether they’ve ever registered to vote or voted in an American election on their naturalization forms and Application to Register for Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, also known as Form I-485.
“It’s against the law for aliens to register to vote,” he said. “It’s not only a crime, but a deportable offense.”
But Jefferson County, Ala., Presiding Probate Judge Alan King, a Democrat who served on the commission, said he doesn’t believe there's a larger number of immigrants voting illegally in U.S. elections and has yet to see any evidence of widespread voter fraud.
“Now, apparently, we as a nation, or our leaders, want to continue a witch hunt and waste even more federal money, taxpayer money, to chase an ideology that really the end game here is to suppress the vote,” he said.
“This was never about voter fraud. It was about suppressing the vote."
When he was asked to serve on the committee, King said he promised the White House he would treat the matter as any judge would – with an open mind, but never knew how the commission planned to investigate Trump's claim.
“Here I am six, seven months later and I don’t have a clue how this commission was supposed to act,” he said. “Information was never forthcoming.”