‘What are they try­ing to hide?’

Trump lashes out as states re­sist call for voter data

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID NAKA­MURA AND MARK BER­MAN david.naka­mura@wash­post.com mark.ber­man@wash­post.com More at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ news/post-pol­i­tics

bridge­wa­ter, n.j. — Pres­i­dent Trump on Satur­day lashed out at the more than two dozen states that have ob­jected to a pres­i­den­tial com­mis­sion’s sweep­ing re­quest for voter data, ac­cus­ing them of cir­cum­vent­ing public scru­tiny over po­ten­tial voter fraud.

Trump’s tweet, is­sued a day af­ter he ar­rived at his Bed­min­ster es­tate in New Jersey for a three­night stay, high­lighted the po­lit­i­cal stakes over his ef­fort to val­i­date his wide­spread claims of ram­pant il­le­gal vot­ing through the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity, which is be­ing led by Vice Pres­i­dent Pence and Kansas Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach (R). Trump, who lost the pop­u­lar vote to Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton, has claimed that mil­lions of im­mi­grants liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally cast votes for her.

The White House has said the com­mis­sion will em­bark upon a “thor­ough re­view of reg­is­tra­tion and vot­ing is­sues in fed­eral elec­tions,” but ex­perts and vot­ing rights ad­vo­cates have pil­lo­ried Trump for his claims of wide­spread fraud, which stud­ies and state of­fi­cials alike have not found. They say that they fear the com­mis­sion will be used to re­strict vot­ing.

Those wor­ries in­ten­si­fied last week af­ter the com­mis­sion sent let­ters to 50 states and the Dis­trict on Wed­nes­day ask­ing for a trove of in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing names, dates of birth, vot­ing his­to­ries and, if pos­si­ble, party iden­ti­fi­ca­tions. The let­ters also asked for ev­i­dence of voter fraud, con­vic­tions for elec­tion-re­lated crimes and rec­om­men­da­tions for pre­vent­ing voter in­tim­i­da­tion — all within 16 days.

While the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has said it is merely re­quest­ing public in­for­ma­tion, the let­ters were met with swift — and some­times de­fi­ant — re­jec­tion. By Satur­day, 25 states were par­tially or en­tirely re­fus­ing to pro­vide the re­quested in­for­ma­tion; some said state laws pro­hibit re­leas­ing cer­tain de­tails about vot­ers, while oth­ers re­fused to pro­vide any in­for­ma­tion be­cause of the com­mis­sion’s makeup and back­story.

“This en­tire com­mis­sion is based on the spe­cious and false no­tion that there was wide­spread voter fraud last Novem­ber,” Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said in a state­ment. “At best this com­mis­sion was set up as a pre­text to val­i­date Don­ald Trump’s al­ter­na­tive elec­tion facts, and at worst is a tool to com­mit largescale voter sup­pres­sion.”

Cal­i­for­nia, a state Trump sin­gled out for “se­ri­ous voter fraud,” also re­fused to par­tic­i­pate. Alex Padilla, the Cal­i­for­nia sec­re­tary of state, said pro­vid­ing data “would only serve to le­git­imize the false and al­ready de­bunked claims of mas­sive voter fraud.”

“This en­tire com­mis­sion is based on the spe­cious and false no­tion that there was wide­spread voter fraud last Novem­ber.” Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D)

A spokesman for Vice Pres­i­dent Pence de­fended the let­ters re­quest­ing voter data, not­ing they seek in­for­ma­tion that is avail­able pub­licly un­der state laws.

“The com­mis­sion very clearly is re­quest­ing pub­licly avail­able data in ac­cor­dance with each state’s laws in an ef­fort to in­crease the in­tegrity of our elec­tion sys­tem,” Jar­rod Agen, the spokesman, said in a state­ment. “The com­mis­sion’s goal is to pro­tect and pre­serve the prin­ci­ple of one per­son, one vote be­cause the in­tegrity of the vote is the foun­da­tion of our democ­racy.”

Trump’s voter com­mis­sion tweets Satur­day were quickly fol­lowed by fa­mil­iar at­tacks on CNN and MSNBC for their cov­er­age of him. Trump said that “Morn­ing Joe” hosts “Crazy Joe Scar­bor­ough” and “dumb as a rock” Mika Brzezin­ski are “not bad peo­ple” — even as he dis­par­aged them again — but that their show is un­der­mined by bosses at the net­work.

The pres­i­dent also sug­gested that host Greta Van Sus­teren was let go from MSNBC by her “out of con­trol bosses.” Van Sus­teren an­nounced she was leav­ing the net­work last week.

Trump did dole out some praise, how­ever, wish­ing a Happy Canada Day to the “great peo­ple of Canada” and his “new found friend” Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau.

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