‘I hope he loses because I want him so badly’: Kobach may be Trump’s ideal AG
IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE A MAN WHO NEVER UNDERSTOOD WHY HE SHOULDN’T OVERSEE HIS OWN ELECTION REFUSING THE PRESIDENT IN ANY WAY.
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.