WASHINGTON -- A group suing the commission that’s investigating alleged voter fraud in the 2016 election says some of the panel’s members have been conducting government business using personal email accounts.
The disclosure was made in a joint status report issued Tuesday in the federal lawsuit filed against President Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity by the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law. The group sued the commission chaired by Vice President Mike Pence in July alleging it was failing to hold public meetings and disclose records that should be made public.
In the status report filed by attorneys for the Lawyers’ Committee and the Department of Justice, the committee says it was told by Justice Department lawyers that members of the voter fraud panel have used “personal email accounts instead of federal government systems to conduct commission work.” The plaintiffs say this is a violation of federal law – the Presidential Records Act, which includes commissions created by the president, official records are not allowed to be sent using a "non-official electronic message account."
Attorneys defending the voter fraud panel’s work did not dispute that some members may have used personal or non-federal email accounts, but Justice Department lawyers said it did not “recall making any definitive statements as to email addresses being used by nonfederal commissioners.” The Justice Department also argued that the type of email used was not relevant for determining which records from the Election Integrity panel should be made public. However, federal lawyers said that “appropriate instructions” had been given to the preservation of documents.
President Trump repeatedly criticized campaign opponent Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. To this day, Trump supporters chant “Lock her up” at rallies over Trump’s contention that Clinton violated federal law. Clinton was not prosecuted at the recommendation of then-FBI Director James Comey after a lengthy investigation.
Pence was also criticized for his use of a private AOL account for state business while he was governor of Indiana. The account came to light after it was subject to a Phishing scheme last year before Pence was named Trump’s running mate. In March of this year, Pence turned over 13 boxes of copies of emails from the AOL account to the state after several months of delays and following dozens of open records requests from media organizations and others.
The voter fraud panel has also been criticized for a wide-ranging request for voter information made by its vice-chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. 44 states, including Indiana, said they could not provide all of the information Kobach was looking for because it was protected by privacy laws. Kobach has been among those who have claimed – without evidence – that large numbers of illegal immigrants are voting in U.S. elections. In 2016, Kobach was invited by Republican State Senator Mike Delph to testify before a select Senate Committee on immigration issues.