‘I hope he loses be­cause I want him so badly’: Kobach may be Trump’s ideal AG

The Kansas City Star - - Opinion -


Kansas Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach may well be the at­tor­ney gen­eral that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has been long­ing for.

We know they’ve bonded over their sim­i­larly pumped-up views of voter fraud and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

Trump has tried to hire Kobach be­fore and has said he would again. At a Topeka cam­paign rally last month, in sup­port of Kobach’s gu­ber­na­to­rial run, the pres­i­dent joked that “I hope he loses be­cause I want him so badly.”

Though Trump fans didn’t take that par­tic­u­lar re­mark ei­ther se­ri­ously or lit­er­ally, Kobach did lose, of course, to Demo­cratic Gov­er­nor-elect Laura Kelly. So he will be avail­able come Jan­uary, when his term as Kansas sec­re­tary of state ends.

The pres­i­dent, who seems to see the pub­lic ser­vants in his ad­min­is­tra­tion as his per­sonal ser­vants, re­peat­edly hu­mil­i­ated the at­tor­ney gen­eral he fired this week, Jeff Ses­sions, for un­der­stand­ing the dif­fer­ence.

Trump has said more than once that Ses­sions should never have re­cused him­self from the Robert Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion just be­cause he had a con­flict of in­ter­est as some­one who him­self had met with Rus­sian of­fi­cials while he was ad­vis­ing the Trump cam­paign.

That move was not just eth­i­cal, but re­quired. Yet Trump told The New York Times that he saw it as “very un­fair to the pres­i­dent.” On Fox News, Trump com­plained that Ses­sions “took the job and then he said, ‘I’m go­ing to re­cuse my­self.’ I said, ‘What kind of a man is this?’ ”

An­swer: not the kind of man Kris Kobach is.

It’s hard to imag­ine a man who never un­der­stood why he shouldn’t over­see his own elec­tion do­ing such a thing, or for that mat­ter, re­fus­ing the pres­i­dent in any way.

At first, Kobach even said there was no rea­son he couldn’t over­see a pos­si­ble re­count be­tween him­self and Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer in their his­tor­i­cally close GOP pri­mary. “It re­ally doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence” whether he su­per­vised his own re­count or not, Kobach said, even as he was pass­ing on that re­spon­si­bil­ity to his deputy.

Over the course of Ses­sions’ ten­ure as at­tor­ney gen­eral, Trump also called him “DIS­GRACE­FUL,” “VERY weak,” and “be­lea­guered” — in each case for fol­low­ing the law.

Kobach, a Har­vard Law grad who has been sen­tenced by a judge to re­me­dial le­gal train­ing for fail­ure to fol­low a direct court or­der, is not nec­es­sar­ily bound by the tech­ni­cal­i­ties that got Ses­sions in trou­ble with his boss.

Af­ter Mueller was ap­pointed, Kobach praised the choice but down­played the threat posed by Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in our democ­racy: “In a per­fect world, no for­eign na­tion would at­tempt to in­flu­ence the head­lines pre­ced­ing an Amer­i­can elec­tion,” Kobach told The Star. “But in my opin­ion, those head­lines didn’t in­flu­ence any­thing. It was all in­side base­ball.”

Kobach does have com­pe­ti­tion for the job from, among oth­ers, for­mer New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida At­tor­ney Gen­eral Pam Bondi, both of whom have been in­ves­ti­gated for po­ten­tial eth­i­cal breaches that were never proven.

Bondi’s po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee re­ceived a $25,000 con­tri­bu­tion from Trump’s foun­da­tion around the same time her of­fice was re­view­ing fraud al­le­ga­tions against Trump Univer­sity. She de­cided not to launch a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into those ac­cu­sa­tions. An ethics panel later cleared her of any po­ten­tial wrong­do­ing.

Last spring, Kobach told the As­so­ci­ated Press he’d been of­fered jobs in the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity and Trump’s White House. One rea­son he didn’t say yes to ei­ther, he said, was re­al­iz­ing that he wouldn’t be able to “uni­lat­er­ally make a de­ci­sion and then say, ‘OK, we’re go­ing to carry this out.’”

The last thing ei­ther the pres­i­dent or the coun­try needs is an At­tor­ney Gen­eral Kris Kobach who does have that abil­ity. And the ad­di­tional U.S. Se­nate seats won by Re­pub­li­cans this week would make a Kobach con­fir­ma­tion eas­ier. A spokes­woman for Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts said he would sup­port con­fir­ma­tion if Kobach were nom­i­nated.

There may even be some Trump crit­ics who’d sup­port it, too, on the the­ory that Kobach’s rou­tinely sloppy le­gal work and fail­ure to at­tend to even ba­sic re­spon­si­bil­i­ties could only get the pres­i­dent into trou­ble.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, left, takes the stage with Kansas Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach dur­ing an Oc­to­ber cam­paign rally in Topeka.

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