The existence of Donald Trump's "Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity" has long been a running joke. By all appearances, the Republican president, annoyed about losing the popular vote and comforted by strange conspiracy theories, created a panel to root out the voter fraud scourge that exists only in conservatives' imaginations.
But as its work has progressed, Trump's voting commission has somehow managed to get even more embarrassing. Last week, for example, the panel's co-chair, voter-suppression pioneer Kris Kobach, claimed to have uncovered "proof" of systemic fraud in New Hampshire -- claims that were quickly discredited as transparent nonsense.
Yesterday, at the commission's public event in the Granite State, members of the panel clashed with Kobach over his attempts at public deception, and heard from a witness who's "proposing that voters literally undergo the same background check as those who are purchasing firearms."
The witness, John Lott, a controversial researcher and Fox News commentator, stressed yesterday that he wasn't kidding.
The New York Times, meanwhile, flagged another rather amazing detail.
Critics say the panel is politically stacked -- the chairman and vice chairman are both Republicans -- and loaded with extremists who contend that election fraud is rampant.On Tuesday, the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group, released an email obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in which a Justice Department employee was urged to push Attorney General Jeff Sessions to create just such a commission.
The email's author, whose name was originally redacted, was concerned that the administration's voting commission would include Democrats and "mainstream Republicans and/or academics."
The Heritage Foundation conceded late yesterday that the email was written by Hans von Spakovsky -- whom Trump appointed to serve on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, despite his ridiculous record on voting rights, and who'd denied having authored the note.
So, what are we left with? A commission that exists for no reason, featuring some Democratic members who are outraged by the co-chair's brazen dishonesty, a Republican member who pushed for the panel to be more partisan and lied about it, and witnesses who have nothing constructive to add to the conversation.
Kobach added yesterday that there's a "high possibility" the commission he helps lead will make no recommendations once it completes its work. I imagine very few people would be disappointed.