President Trump has dissolved his election integrity commission, blaming states for refusing to turn over voter data as well as the lawsuits that have dogged the commission since Trump announced it in May.
The White House announced Trump’s decision late Wednesday and sent the text of the executive order revoking the May order that created the commission soon after.
The announcement included a statement that repeated Trump’s oft-made claim of voter fraud, but said that “rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense,” Trump had ended the commission and asked the Department of Homeland Security to take up the review of US election systems.
Democrats and civil rights groups criticized the commission from the start, accusing the administration of using it as a pretext for suppressing minority voters. The Trump administration faced a string of lawsuits challenging the legality of the commission itself as well as its efforts to collect voter data from states.
Most recently, the commission was sued by one of its own members, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat, who claimed he was blocked from getting information about the group’s activities. In the lawsuit, Dunlap’s lawyers said that the commission’s “superficial bipartisanship has been a facade.”
A judge on Dec. 22 had ordered the commission to provide Dunlap with some of the materials he had requested. American Oversight, a government transparency advocacy group representing Dunlap along with lawyers from the law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, said in a statement that it would continue to fight in court for access to records about the commission’s activities.
“It’s no coincidence that the president dissolved the commission once it became clear it wouldn’t be permitted to operate in the shadows,” American Oversight executive director Austin Evers said in the statement. “Secretary Dunlap deserves our gratitude for stepping into the breach to take on adversaries of democracy. We intend to continue to fight for his right to access to the commission’s secret communications. President Trump can dissolve the commission, but the law doesn’t allow him or the commission to slink away from view and avoid accountability.“
The commission was chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, but its driving force was Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. It was Kobach who sent a letter to states in June seeking information from their voter rolls. The majority of states refused to comply with the request, according to press reports.
Kobach told the Topeka Capital-Journal last week that although the commission’s work had been delayed because of the lawsuits, it would meet in January. The group’s last meeting was in September.
Dunlap’s case was one of eight pending lawsuits against the commission. Shortly after the White House announced that Trump had dissolved the commission on Wednesday, the Justice Department filed notices in each of the cases alerting the judges to the development.
A spokeswoman for Kobach did not immediately return a request for comment.
Here is the executive order that Trump signed on Jan. 3 revoking the executive order that created the commission:
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.