A prominent member of President Trump’s voter fraud commission on Wednesday acknowledged writing an email in which he argued that appointing Democrats or “mainstream” Republicans to the panel “would guarantee its failure.”
In the late-February email, Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, one of Trump’s GOP appointees, wrote that he had received “a very disturbing phone call” about the commission, which Vice President Pence was set to lead.
“We are told that the members of this commission are to be named on Tuesday,” von Spakovsky wrote. “We’re also hearing that they are going to make this bipartisan and include Democrats. There isn’t a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud. … That decision alone shows how little the [White House] understands about this issue.”
Von Spakovsky went on to say that “there are only a handful of real experts on the conservative side of this issue,” adding: “If they are picking mainstream Republican officials and/or academics to man this commission it will be an abject failure because there aren’t any that know anything about this or who have paid attention to the issue over the years.”
The email was made public Tuesday by the Campaign Legal Center, which obtained it through a public records request to the U.S. Department of Justice. A copy of the email was later forwarded to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Von Spakovsky’s name as well as the name of the email’s immediate recipients are redacted in the chain that was publicly released.
Following a lengthy meeting of the commission in New Hampshire on Tuesday, von Spakovsky was asked by a reporter about sending an email and denied doing so.
In a statement released Wednesday by the Heritage Foundation, where von Spakovsky serves as a senior legal fellow, he wrote that he had answered the question correctly because he was asked about an email sent to Sessions.
“I did not send an email to the attorney general,” von Spakovsky said. “I have never had any discussions by email or otherwise with General Sessions about the election integrity commission.” He added that he was unaware the email had been forwarded to Sessions.
Von Spakovsky said the email was sent to “private individuals” not in the Trump administration “to express my personal concerns about the efficacy of the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity months before it was organized or any of its members were selected.”
In the weeks that followed, Trump named five Democrats to the 12-member commission. But Pence, the chairman, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chairman, are Republicans.
In his statement Wednesday, von Spakovsky indicated that he no longer has the same concerns.
“After my own participation as a member, I’m confident that all the members of the Commission are committed to uncovering the truth about election integrity and the other issues present in our election system and developing recommendations to safeguard and improve the voting process,” he said.
Von Spakovsky said that the “informative and comprehensive” meeting held Wednesday, which was hosted by New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a Democrat, was “evidence of the good work the Commission is already doing.”