The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate on Thursday called on President Trump, in the aftermath of the Charlottesville hate rally, to dismantle his so-called Election Integrity Commission, a state-sponsored front for voter suppression efforts.
“What troubles so many Americans every bit as much as the president’s shocking response to this national tragedy is the methodical and pernicious way in which his administration is promoting discrimination, both subtle and not so subtle, in its policies and actions—especially when it comes to undermining the universal right of every American to vote,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a Medium post.
Trump denounced “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville at the hands of white supremacists and neo-Nazis on August 12. Three died, including anti-hate demonstrator Heather Heyer after a white supremacist drove his car through the crowd.
Schumer’s post drew a clear line between people who elevate white supremacy and the policies, like voter suppression, that enable it.
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Schumer called Trump’s commission, along with attorney general and longtime voting rights antagonist Jeff Sessions’ machinations at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
“Their only intention is to disenfranchise voters,” Schumer said. “This is how the appalling failure to use the right words and stand up to hate in the aftermath of Charlottesville is made real in the form of policy; they are two edges of the same sword.”
Trump in May formed a commission to investigate his baseless allegations that millions of people, including undocumented immigrants, voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election, denying him bragging rights to the popular vote. He lost the popular vote to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million ballots.
Vice President Mike Pence, who has long pushed the debunked myth of widespread voter fraud, chairs the commission. Trump appointed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice-chair; Kobach’s name is synonymous with restrictions in Kansas that make it more difficult to vote.
A Democratic leadership aide was not aware of congressional Republicans who have directly condemned Trump’s commission.
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) in February went as far as telling Trump to “stop saying” that illegal votes cost him the popular vote.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KS) argued that voter fraud exists—”there are people literally in jail in Kentucky for this kind of activity,” he told reporters days after Trump’s January 20 inauguration, according to a CNN report—he disagreed with the president’s calls for a federal inquiry, and federal money, to investigate it.
“Most states have done a better job on this front,” he said.
McConnell said during a CNN appearance in February that contrary to Trump’s claim of 3-to-5 million illegal ballots, “no evidence” exists to support that fraud “occurred in such a significant number.”
It’s unclear where McConnell stands on the commission chaired by voter suppression enthusiasts now that it’s underway. McConnell spokesperson David Popp would not say whether the majority leader believes the commission should end.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School and the Protect Democracy Project filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court to compel the DOJ, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Management and Budget to answer requests and disclose public information related to Trump’s election commission. The commission won’t be able to operate in the dark if the lawsuit succeeds.
Schumer’s post called for a more transparent approach to voting rights.
“When the president began his ‘Election Integrity Commission,’ it raised a lot of eyebrows,” Schumer said. “But now, given what’s happened in the last several weeks, we’ve entered a new world and it’s even more important that the commission be disbanded.”