Why Dissolving the Election Fraud Commission Is a True Loss for the Nation

This week, the White House announced the sudden, disappointing news that the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was being dissolved.

Liberal advocacy groups, which for months have worked to obstruct the group’s efforts to examine the integrity and security of the ballot box, ecstatically declared victory. But their win is a loss for the nation, which remains blind to the true breadth and scope of fraud in American elections.

As if to emphasize that point, The Heritage Foundation has once again added a slew of new cases to its election fraud database.

Accounting for the new entries, the database now lists 1,107 verified instances of fraud, including 961 criminal convictions of proven fraudsters, 48 cases that ended in civil penalties, 76 cases that resulted in defendants entering diversion programs, and 22 that ended with either a judicial or official finding of fraud.

That’s quite a tally for a problem that supposedly doesn’t exist. But as alarming as that figure is, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Heritage’s database is not comprehensive, so for every case we identify and track through to conclusion, many more likely go undetected or hidden in court records that are not easily accessible.

That sad reality is a result of the lack of adequate safeguards in many states—policies such as voter identification and proof of citizenship requirements—that make it possible to detect fraud. Even when fraud is detected, many prosecutors opt not to pursue cases for the simple fact that their priorities lie elsewhere.

As long as these two facts are true, there’s little to deter fraudsters from undermining the core of American democracy. Simply put, they know our elections are vulnerable, and they are not above exploiting those weaknesses to advance their careers and causes.

Those weaknesses no doubt will persist now that liberal advocacy groups have pre-empted the election fraud commission’s efforts to investigate them and propose solutions.

Here are some of this week’s additions to the Heritage database.

Deszi Marquis Hayes

Deszi Marquis Hayes voted in the 2016 election—from jail. Hayes, a Florida resident, was serving a nine-month sentence following a felony traffic conviction. Nevertheless, he received and cast a mail-in ballot from the Indian River County Jail.

Florida state law does not permit convicted felons to vote, but his vote was accepted nonetheless because the process of removing him from the state’s voter rolls had not yet been completed.

Awais Jamil

Awais Jamil, a Pakistani immigrant residing in Ohio, voted in the 2016 presidential election despite not being a citizen. Jamil had initially indicated on Bureau of Motor Vehicle forms that he was not a citizen, but the state of Ohio nevertheless sent him a voter-registration packet.

Jamil then falsely claimed citizenship in order to register. He pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree felony illegal-voting charge, and was sentenced to one year of probation, with an underlying 14-month prison sentence. He now faces possible deportation as a result of the felony conviction.

Brandon Dean

Brandon Dean was elected mayor of Brighton, Alabama, in 2016, but he was ordered to vacate the office after a judge determined that 46 fraudulent absentee votes had been cast for him in the election.

Of those ballots, 21 were not signed by the voter, while 22 were actually mailed to Dean’s address, rather voters’ homes. Two absentee ballots were cast by people who were actually present at City Hall on Election Day, and one person voted despite not living within Brighton city limits.

Deducting those votes dropped Dean’s tally below the threshold needed to avoid a mandatory runoff, which Brighton must now hold.

Ultimately, all three of these—and the 1,100-plus other instances of fraud in the Heritage database—speak to the need for states to adopt, and vigorously enforce, election-integrity measures designed to secure the ballot box against fraud.

One vital policy is the routine inspection of state voter rolls and the purging of inaccurate registrations. The National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the “Motor Voter” law, requires states to maintain the accuracy of voter-registration records—and with good reason.

Inaccuracies create avenues for fraud and abuse, and risk permitting ineligible voters and noncitizens to cast ballots.

Despite this, voter rolls are riddled with inaccuracies. A 2012 Pew study concluded that nationwide some 24 million voter registrations—nearly one in eight—were inaccurate, out-of-date, or duplicative. In 2017, the Public Interest Legal Foundation identified 248 counties in 24 states where the number of registered voters exceeds the number of adult residents.

The consequences of shoddy record keeping are real. The Public Interest Legal Foundation recently identified 5,556 noncitizens who had, since 2011, successfully registered to vote in the critical swing state of Virginia. Even more alarming, this same report identified 1,852 noncitizens who collectively cast 7,474 ballots in the state.

Another recent study, by the Government Accountability Institute, concluded with “high confidence” that as many as 45,000 duplicate votes were cast nationwide in last year’s presidential election. In an era of tight elections, even a handful—let alone thousands—of fraudulently cast ballots could alter the course of major races.

Given the importance of free and fair elections, it is eminently reasonable and commonsensical for states to devise procedures for identifying and purging records that are inaccurate or out-of-date.

Unfortunately, a case soon to be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court makes clear that even this is a bridge too far for some on the left.

The case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, involves a challenge to Ohio’s procedure for removing ineligible voters, a process which requires years to complete. The state first sends notices to registered voters who have not voted in two years, seeking to confirm their residency. If voters do not return the confirmation, and fail to vote for four more years, Ohio removes them from the rolls.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Ohio’s process for cleaning up its voter rolls as a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. Two Meese Center scholars called the opinion “a sad example of statutory misinterpretation (including using a canon of construction that at least one Supreme Court justice has called ‘made up’).”

Ohio appealed, and the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on Jan. 10.

At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of all the states to take seriously their role in preserving the integrity of our electoral process.

Some on the left may wish to bury their heads in the sand, dismiss the evidence, and reflexively resist election-integrity measures, but Americans should not pay them any mind.

There are far too many cases of documented, proven fraud to ignore. Election fraud is a serious problem demanding serious solutions, and it is high time we tackle it.

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How Trump Administration Will Fight Voter Fraud After Shutting Down Panel

After issuing an executive order late Wednesday closing his commission to investigate voter fraud, President Donald Trump now stresses the need for more voter identification and has tasked the Department of Homeland Security with ensuring the integrity of elections.

The White House so far is not saying that the president will call for a national voter ID system. But his tweets Thursday seemed to suggest so:

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t have a decisive answer Thursday on whether the president favored a national voter ID system.

“We are still going to continue to review the best way forward,” Sanders said in a response to a question from The Daily Signal during the press briefing.

“Just because the election commission is no longer in existence, we are going to send the preliminary findings from the commission to the Department of Homeland Security and make determinations on the best way forward,” she said.

Asked why the Department of Homeland Security instead of the Justice Department, which traditionally investigates voting irregularities, is taking up the matter, Sanders told The Daily Signal: “That was the agency that was best determined by the administration, and we are moving forward and letting them take over the process.”

Vice President Mike Pence was chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was vice chairman. The president appointed the bipartisan commission, also known as the Voter Fraud Commission, in May.

Kobach, a Republican, has been a longtime advocate of voter ID, but will not advise the Department of Homeland Security going forward, a spokesman said.

“At the president’s direction, the department continues to work in support of state governments who are responsible for administering elections, with efforts focused on securing elections against those who seek to undermine the election system or its integrity,” Tyler Houlton, the department’s acting press secretary, told The Daily Signal in an email. “Mr. Kobach is not advising the department on this matter.”

The commission’s work was besieged from the outset by lawsuits and uncooperative state officials, according to the White House and some commission members.

“Foes of election integrity lost their seat at the table,” J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and another Republican commission member, said of the panel’s folding in a written statement Wednesday.

“Now the important work of improving the integrity of the election process will be done by people who believe in election integrity, not by those who seek to preserve vulnerabilities in the system,” Adams said.

Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer, continued:

Over the years, demonstrable and empirical data has been developed showing noncitizen voting, double voting, and defects in the election system that no credible observer could deny. Some news outlets and activists have decided to ignore those facts, as if they do not exist.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of well-funded groups, activist academics, and individuals who are not credible who sought to undermine and sabotage the commission’s work. They may delight today in the dissolution of the commission, but before long they’ll realize that advocates of election integrity have more stamina, support, and perseverance than they realize.

The White House commission was made up of seven Republicans and five Democrats. Among the Democrats was Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who sued the commission while he was a member, accusing it of not sharing information.

Despite dissolving the commission, Dunlap said, the Trump administration still will have to honor a federal court order to provide him with information.

“I didn’t want to go to court,” Dunlap told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “All I wanted, honest to God, was to participate and get an answer to all of my questions.”

Dunlap said he is concerned with the Department of Homeland Security’s role.

“How many driver’s license has Homeland Security issued?” he asked rhetorically. “None. How many elections has Homeland Security run? None.”

“I was alarmed when the Obama administration classified election administration as critical infrastructure, that gives the federal government so much leeway,” Dunlap said. “Part of the goal for some people has been a national voter ID law.”

The White House commission asked every top state election official for basic information on voting in his or her state, but at least 18 states and the District of Columbia refused to cooperate. Many of those states had particular problems with voter fraud in the past, as The Daily Signal has reported.

Numerous liberal groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Brennan Center for Justice, sued to stop the commission from doing its work. One group, American Oversight, helped represent Dunlap in his lawsuit against the administration.

Commission member Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said state officials blocked the panel from finding the truth.

“Unjustified refusal from some states to work with us and dozens of meritless lawsuits; those two things made it next to impossible for the commission to do its work,” von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Thursday. “They don’t want the American people to find the truth about [voter] fraud and errors and double voting.”

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a Republican who is chairwoman of the National Association of Secretaries of State, also was a commission member.

“We do not have a comment or anything further to add on the topic of the election commission,” Lawson spokeswoman Valerie Warycha said.

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Jeff Sessions Should Go If He Won’t Ensure ‘Transparency,’ 2 House Conservatives Argue

Two prominent conservative lawmakers say Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop leaks to the media about the Russia probe or step down as attorney general.

Sessions “has recused himself from the Russia investigation, but it would appear he has no control at all of the premier law enforcement agency in the world,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, write in an op-ed published Thursday by the Washington Examiner.

“It is time for Sessions to start managing [the Justice Department] in a spirit of transparency to bring all of this improper behavior to light and stop further violations,” the lawmakers wrote.

Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and Jordan, a former chairman of the group, write that the attorney general hasn’t done enough to stop leaks about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including alleged collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign:

The alarming number of FBI agents and [Department of Justice] officials sharing information with reporters is in clear violation of the investigative standards that Americans expect and should demand. How would New York Times reporters know any of this information when the FBI and DOJ are prohibited from talking about ongoing investigations?

They add:

If Sessions can’t address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needing an answer: When is it time for a new attorney general? Sadly, it seems the answer is now.

The FBI is part of the Justice Department, which Sessions runs as attorney general. The former Alabama senator recused himself from any Russia probe because of his role in the Trump campaign.

The two lawmakers specify a Dec. 30 story in The New York Times that they say used “four current and former anonymous intelligence officials to suggest that George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign volunteer, was a ‘driving factor’ who triggered the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign.”

The Times reported that Papadopoulos, a low-level foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, told an Australian diplomat that Russia had emails embarrassing to Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the election.

The lawmakers lay out detailed questions, in five categories, that they say must be answered to understand why government officials leaked the information in the first place.

Their last group of questions:

Why won’t the FBI answer questions from Congress on this very topic? Why do they continue to refuse transparency on whether they paid Christopher Steele for the Russian dossier? We in Congress have asked them repeatedly to tell us what was in the application they took to the FISA court to get a warrant for spying on the Trump campaign. Did they use the dossier in their application?

Steele, a former British intelligence officer, authored a document containing allegations about Trump’s connections with Russia. Steele wrote the so-called dossier for Fusion GPS, a research company that was paid by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

“It seems remarkably odd that instead of the FBI answering the critical questions that Congress has repeatedly asked, they instead leak a far-fetched and ill-supported story to the New York Times,” Jordan and Meadows write. “If this is the truth, then give us the documentation we’ve asked for to prove it.”

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Trump Ends His Voter Fraud Commission, Asks Homeland Security to ‘Review the Issues’

President Donald Trump decided to dissolve his commission on voter fraud Wednesday, citing refusal from states to cooperate with the commission.

Trump, who created the commission in order to investigate possible instances of voter fraud in the 2016 election, is instead asking the Department of Homeland Security to review the matter, the White House said in a statement.

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“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” Trump said in a statement released by the White House. “Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”

Trump created the commission in May because he believed millions of people had voted in the election illegally. Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach led the commission, which previously requested the 50 states turn over pertinent information from state voter rolls, among other things.

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Conservative Lawmaker Demands Answers to These 18 Questions About Russia, FBI

One member of Congress says “the American people deserve answers” to 18 questions he has regarding Russia and the FBI.

“We’d like for the FBI and the [Justice Department] to turn over the documents that Chairman [Devin] Nunes has requested, give the documents to Congress that we requested, that’s first and foremost,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Wednesday.

“We’d like answers to the two fundamental questions, the questions that we started with: did the FBI pay Christopher Steele, [and] were they paying him the same time that the DNC and the Clinton campaign were paying?”

Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele authored a dossier, which contained allegations that Trump had connections with Russia. The dossier was written for Fusion GPS, a research firm that was paid by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Fox News reported last week that “House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is blasting the Department of Justice and the FBI for its ‘failure to fully produce’ documents related to an anti-Trump dossier, saying ‘at this point it seems the DOJ and FBI need to be investigating themselves.’”

“Unfortunately, DOJ/FBI’s intransigence with respect to the August 24 subpoenas is part of a broader pattern of behavior that can no longer be tolerated,” Nunes wrote in a Dec. 28 letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to Fox News.

“As a result of the numerous delays and discrepancies that have hampered the process of subpoena compliance, the committee no longer credits the representations made by DOJ and/or the FBI regarding these matters,” he added.

On June 8, former FBI director James Comey said the dossier was unverified, and Jordan says nswers are still needed from the FBI.

“Did they substantiate the dossier?” Jordan asked. “Did they actually even check and see, is this thing accurate? [Former FBI Director[ James Comey said it was salacious, non-verified, right, so Comey testified under oath that it wasn’t accurate, but what work did the FBI do to figure out if it in fact was accurate?”

A full list of Jordan’s 18 questions is below:

 

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Eliminating Partisan Redistricting Will Make Politics Worse, Not Better

You can’t take politics out of politics.

In different words, that’s what James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, expressed when he wrote Federalist No. 10. Instead of eliminating partisan interests, he called for a constitutional system that would pit ambition against ambition to prevent tyranny, rather than trying to extinguish parties or “factions” altogether.

But the age-old desire to create a political system free from rank partisanship threatens to make our governing system worse, not better.

There’s no better illustration of Madison’s wisdom than the current battle over how legislative districts are drawn.

A lower court threw out a 2011 Wisconsin redistricting plan on the basis that the number of Republican- and Democrat-held seats did not reflect the number of total votes for each party in the state. Instead, the seats were skewed to favor the GOP. The issue made its way up to the Supreme Court, which recently heard oral arguments in the case of Gill v. Whitford.

Undoubtedly, as parties have done since the beginning of time, Republicans in the state legislature drew up congressional districts that were favorable to their party, leading to complaints of injustice.

Though many have cried foul over this practice and now hope the courts will somehow resolve the issue, the judicial cure could become far worse than the disease.

Heritage Foundation expert Hans von Spakovsky warned about how the case could allow courts to be weaponized and injected into partisan political squabbles.

Von Spakovsky wrote in an op-ed essay for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “If the court decides a ‘proof of intent to act for political purposes’ in redistricting is unconstitutional, they will be turning the courts into just such weapons and usurping the authority of the political branches of government.”

Like Madison, von Spakovsky would rather brave the messy political arena on this issue, as Americans have done throughout our history, rather than interject the courts in a matter that ought to be resolved through democratic means.

Even the colloquial name of the practice shows that getting one-up on the opposing party through redistricting is as old as the republic.

Partisan redistricting, called “gerrymandering,” gets its name from Elbridge Gerry, a curmudgeonly Founding Father from Massachusetts, who, as governor of his state, helped draw up district lines that favored his political allies.

One absurdly shaped district looked like a salamander, which his political opponents mocked by calling it a “gerrymander.” Gerry lost his next election, but the name of his partisan districting methods stuck.

It’s been a part of the American system before and since Gerry cooked up his scheme, with the party on the short end of the stick often squawking about its unfairness.

It just so happens that Democrats have been on the short end of this process after several wave elections that did not go in their favor.

Former President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder, has begun beating the drum, calling for the Supreme Court to end gerrymandering, or, if that fails, passage of  legislation to somehow make the system free from partisanship.

In a Washington Post column, Holder wrote that this was necessary for “preserving our democracy and making our government accountable to the people.”

Having nine unelected judges save democracy is perhaps itself an absurdity, but Holder’s other suggestions if the court doesn’t go his way also fall far short of improving the American system of elections.

This isn’t the first time Americans have sought to remove politics from redistricting. For instance, California passed a law in 2008 creating a California Citizens Redistricting Commission that was billed as balanced, scientific in method, and nonpartisan.

But the effort was almost immediately re-embroiled in politics as Republicans accused Democrats of stacking the commission with activists who were operating publicly as nothing more than disinterested citizens groups.

Also, in 2012, controversy raged in Colorado over partisanship in a supposedly independent commission set up by the state in the 1970s. One longtime member of the commission spoke out and said that it had always been partisan.

Robert D. Loevy, a retired professor and former Colorado redistricting commissioner, wrote in his book “Confessions of a Reapportionment Commissioner” that the independent commission guidelines for fair apportionment were essentially a “sham.”

Politicking persisted as parties tried to stack or manipulate the commissions to suit their interests, just as they had used their power to create more favorable districts through gerrymandering. The process just became less apparent on the surface and further out of the view of the public.

Other states have tried similar “fixes,” and yet, despite proliferating “nonpartisan” and “citizen” commissions and panels, redistricting generally remains as partisan as ever.

Does this mean gerrymandering isn’t a problem? Certainly not. There are undoubtedly districts across the country that are absurdly constructed and brazenly partisan, and do a poor job of reflecting the opinions and will of voters.

Instead of a Sisyphusian attempt to cut politics out of an inherently political activity, the problems engendered by partisan redistricting are best resolved through frequent elections, public awareness, and constant changes to policy, neighborhoods, and culture that often make carefully drawn legislative maps outdated.

Democracy and, yes, open partisanship, are perhaps the best and only means to counteract overzealous factions, not “legislators” in robes or ineffectual legislative schemes that can’t overcome the reality of raw political interest.

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The State Government Agency That Spied on Citizens

A new report on a government spying operation conducted by partisan bureaucrats should outrage and scare Americans everywhere.  It shows what can happen when, as the report says, partisans “weaponize” a government agency and use its powers to advance “political goals.”

Americans already have seen that when federal bureaucrats such as Lois Lerner or Samantha Power do that with the fearsome power of the IRS and our intelligence agencies, we face a threat to our liberty and the democratic process that is unparalleled in our history.

The 88-page report by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel details the notorious “John Doe” investigations that went after almost every conservative, nonprofit organization in Wisconsin (the state chapter of Club for Growth among them) for supposed violations of campaign finance laws.

Except that there were not any actual violations of the law, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  The court shut down the prosecutions in 2015, calling the legal theory under which the prosecutors were pursuing the case “unsupported in either reason or law.”

The state’s highest court used the word “amazing” in describing the “breadth” of documents seized by prosecutors through numerous, wide-ranging subpoenas and search warrants.  This included “virtually every document possessed by the [targets] relating to every aspect of their lives, both personal and professional, over a five-year span.”

The report from Schimel, a Republican, has an unbelievable list of 218 subpoenas and search warrants issued in the investigation–and this is only a “partial” list.

Prosecutors treated conservative organizations as if they were dangerous drug cartels or mob operations. As the Wisconsin Supreme Court said, they executed search warrants against the personal homes and families of the leaders of these nonprofits in “pre-dawn, armed, paramilitary-style raids in which bright floodlights were used to illuminate the targets’ homes.”

Here is the meritless theory behind the investigations: Any support for issues important to Gov. Scott Walker, such as the bill reducing union power over state government employees, was illegal “coordination.”

As the state Supreme Court said, however, our democracy is supposed to assure the “unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.” Instead, the prosecutors’ theories “would assure that such political speech will be investigated with paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours and then prosecuted and punished.”

Meet John Doe

These investigations tried to criminalize political speech and political activity protected by the First Amendment.

The John Doe harassment was conducted by the state’s now-defunct Government Accountability Board–the agency responsible for elections and ethics matters–and local prosecutors, led by unrepentant Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm.

As this writer previously reported, the motive of Chisolm, a Democrat, was apparently very personal: His wife was a steward for the teachers union at a local high school and was upset over the union bill sponsored by Walker, a Republican.

The accountability board, known as GAB, was broken up into two separate agencies by the Wisconsin legislature after this debacle, and its former longtime director, Kevin Kennedy, the chief miscreant behind this abusive behavior, retired. Kennedy was part of the state’s elections bureaucracy for nearly 40 years.

Until this report, we only knew about two John Doe investigations.  Amazingly enough, however, Schimel’s investigators discovered a third and secret case, not revealed by bureaucrats, when they searched the former offices of the accountability board.

What Schimel labeled as “John Doe III” went even further that the John Doe I and John Doe II investigations.  According to his report, it “collected hundreds of thousands of private emails from dozens of Wisconsin Republicans (and at least two national conservative leaders, Ed Gillespie and Leonard Leo).” Gillespie, a Republican, just lost the governor’s race in Virginia; Leo is executive vice president of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group.

The John Doe III investigation gathered over 500,000 personal emails, which the report says were found in “unsecured boxes” in the basement of the board’s former offices. Thousands of private emails from Wisconsin Republicans also were found in several folders on computer servers marked “Opposition Research,” the report says.

In other words, the state agency that was supposed to be the nonpartisan regulator of elections and ethics in Wisconsin was staffed by bureaucrats who labeled Republican legislators as the “opposition” and saw nothing wrong with using the legal process to secretly obtain their personal email communications.

Getting Personal

How personal were these emails, and how far removed were they from having anything to do with elections, campaigning, or fundraising?

Schimel details some of the emails his investigators found on pages 67 and 68 of his report.  They include over 1,000 emails among members of a private Bible study group that met at a church in Middleton, Wisconsin; an email between parents discussing a daughter’s need for an OB-GYN; an email about prescription medications; and “dozens of emails sent to, received from, or regarding radio talk show hosts Mark Belling, Vicki McKenna, and Charlie Sykes.”

That means that emails from this writer, a guest numerous times on McKenna’s radio show, very well may be in this collection.  A leading conservative voice in Wisconsin, McKenna went after the Government Accountability Board and its abusive tactics in the John Doe investigations.

Schimel also found that the John Doe investigators “obtained, categorized, and maintained over 150 personal emails between state Sen. Leah Vukmir and her daughter, including emails containing private medical information and other highly personal information.”

These emails were found in one of the folders marked as “Opposition Research.” Vukmir plans to challenge U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, next year.

Leaks to the press by individuals involved in the John Doe investigations sparked Schimel’s probe.

When the courts ruled against the prosecutors, they issued orders that the prosecutors and bureaucrats no longer could review, examine, or access any of the documents they had seized. The Wisconsin Supreme Court later ordered all of the information destroyed and all seized property returned to its owners.

The Leak

Despite those orders, the London-based Guardian newspaper published an article in 2016 linking to 1,500 pages of documents under seal from the John Doe investigations. The leak occurred just 11 days before the U.S. Supreme Court was set to consider the prosecutors’ petition for it to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision ending the prosecution.

Schimel’s extensive investigation concluded that the leak, a criminal violation of the law, came from inside the Government Accountability Board.  From the particular documents leaked and the timing, it was clear to the state attorney general that the motivation was to attempt to influence the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. The high court, though, ultimately refused to take up the case.

Schimel notes that “only someone with an intimate knowledge of the case, a knowledge of campaign finance law, and familiarity with the leaked documents would know which documents to leak that would respond directly” to issues raised in the petition seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Schimel also was able to determine the leak did not come from the Wisconsin courts or any of the district attorneys. The source was the accountability board, but that agency so mismanaged–through incompetence or intentional conduct–the handling of all of the documents in an unsecured, unmonitored setting that Schimel could not determine the leaker’s identity with the amount of proof required to win a criminal conviction.

The evidence, however, seems to point to Shane Falk, a former attorney at the accountability board. In his report, Schimel recommends action against a long list of individuals, including referring Falk to the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation, which oversees the licensing of lawyers and disciplines those who violate ethics rules.

Schimel also recommends initiation of contempt proceedings against nine individuals for violating various court orders issued by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the lower courts, including for leaving “hundreds of thousands of confidential documents” in the basement of the former board offices “in violation of a Supreme Court order.”

Among the nine are employees, lawyers, and investigators of both the Government Accountability Board and the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office, as well as the special prosecutor hired to help run the case—Frances Schmitz, a former U.S. Justice Department lawyer.

Prejudging the Evidence

Kennedy, the former head of the accountability board, also is on this list. To its great shame, the National Association of State Election Directors last year gave Kennedy an award despite all of the evidence of his wrongdoing and misbehavior in the John Doe investigations. The fact that Kennedy now is on the board of the U.S. Vote Foundation, a nonprofit voting rights organization, tells you everything you need to know about that entity.

Here is the bottom line, according to Wisconsin’s attorney general, after his review of the evidence in the case, including emails exchanged between prosecutors and Government Accountability Board lawyers:

GAB attorneys had prejudged the guilt of Governor Walker, Wisconsin Republicans, and related organizations that they were investigating and this dramatically influenced their ability to give competent legal advice.

GAB attorneys did not act in a detached and professional manner … they were on a mission to bring down the Walker campaign and the governor himself. … Because the attorneys for GAB (none of whom were experienced criminal prosecutors) prejudged the evidence and what it meant, they had difficulty accepting that their interpretation of the law was wrong.

The Government Accountability Board’s attorneys refused to accept the legitimacy of court rulings against them, too, labeling the rulings as a “bad joke” and “pathetic” and indulging in conspiracy paranoia.  One of the board’s lawyers, commenting on an adverse ruling, said: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist by nature, but something does not smell right here.”

In his report, Schimel writes that the

words and actions by individuals supposedly part of a ‘non-partisan’ governmental body demonstrate … that some or all of these individuals did not maintain the kind of objectivity that is expected of officials legitimately investigating potential civil campaign law violations.  Indeed, it is to the Legislature’s credit that it disbanded GAB following this sordid tale.

This “sordid tale” of government spying on private individuals is a stain on Wisconsin’s reputation.  It should serve as a warning to the public about the dangers of out-of-control, unaccountable government bureaucrats who abuse their power and threaten Americans’ freedom to participate in the political process.

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After Texts Show Bias of FBI Agents in Russia Probe, GOP Lawmakers Question Justice Official in Testy Hearing

Revelations that FBI investigators who were part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team sent each other derogatory text messages about Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign dominated a House hearing Wednesday featuring the No. 2 Justice Department official.

The electronic messages disparaging Trump fit into a larger pattern of partisanship undermining the integrity of Mueller’s ongoing probe into allegations the Trump campaign team colluded with Russia, according to legal analysts and government watchdogs.

The Justice Department submitted copies of about 375 of the two FBI agents’ text messages to Congress on Tuesday night, as Politico reported and Republican and Democrat lawmakers confirmed Wednesday during the House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The text messages include several exchanges between Peter Strzok, an official who served in the FBI’s counterintelligence division, and Lisa Page, an FBI attorney. Strzok and Page reportedly were having an extramarital affair at the time they sent the text messages about Trump and other 2016 presidential candidates.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Strzok’s “strident” texts created an appearance of impropriety and was one reason to appoint a second special counsel to look into wrongdoing within the FBI and the Justice Department designed to “hang” Trump.

“Were you aware of just how biased Mr. Strzok was?” Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during the hearing.

“No, I was not,” Rosenstein replied.

“It’s not just the FBI agents and their obvious partisanship,” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal analyst at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “It is now a whole series of disturbing revelations about the lawyers hired by Mueller that show the same level of bias, partisanship, and conflicts of interest.”

The text messages first came to light as the department’s Office of Inspector General conducted an internal review of the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct official business as secretary of state from 2009 through 2012.

Clinton, the Democrats’ 2016 presidential nominee, was cleared before the election of any criminal activity by then-FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired less than four months into his presidency.

The dates of the text messages by Strzok and Page range from August 2015 to December 2016, according to The Washington Times and other media outlets that obtained copies. Fox News Channel reported that officials were reviewing more than 10,000 messages.

Republican lawmakers noted that Strzok was lead investigator in the probe of Clinton’s secret email setup, and identified him as the one who urged Comey to use the words “extremely careless” rather than the legally weighted “grossly negligent” to describe Clinton’s email practices as secretary of state.

‘Loathsome Human’

Mueller removed Strzok from his investigative team about five months ago, in July, after learning of the text messages. Strzok was in charge of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s private email server prior to joining Mueller’s team.

Page, the FBI lawyer, also served on Mueller’s investigative team, but by the time Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s probe uncovered the text messages, she had returned to other duties at the FBI.

Strzok and Page referred to Trump as an “idiot” during the Republican primaries, the text messages show. Other exchanges indicate that the pair supported Clinton for president over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the Democratic primaries.

Politico noted a March 2016 text in which Page declared: “God trump is a loathsome human…omg he’s an idiot.”

“He’s awful,” wrote back Strzok, who also texted that Trump was an “idiot” in another exchange.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., expressed concern about partisan inclinations within the Justice Department and FBI in a statement he released during the oversight hearing, when committee members questioned Rosenstein about the text messages, the Russia probe, and the Clinton email investigation.

“Reports on the political predisposition, and potential bias, of certain career agents and department lawyers on Special Counsel Mueller’s team are deeply troubling to all citizens who expect a system of blind and equal justice,” Goodlatte said. “DOJ investigations must not be tainted by individuals imposing their own political prejudices. We are now beginning to better understand the magnitude of this insider bias on Mr. Mueller’s team.”

‘Super Agent’

Rosenstein appointed the former FBI director as special counsel after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe because of his advisory role in the Trump campaign. The deputy attorney general repeatedly defended Mueller’s investigation during the hearing from Republican lawmakers who cited evidence of political bias on the part of key investigators.

“I’m not aware of any impropriety, I’m not aware of any violation of rules,” Rosenstein said early on, a refrain he would repeat while declining to address the appearance of impropriety.

“How can you say with a straight face that this group of Democrat partisans are unbiased and will give Trump a fair shake?” Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, asked at one point.

“This guy thought he was super agent James Bond at the FBI,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said of Strzok, pointing to texts in which Strzok appeared to see it as his mission to protect the nation from Trump.

Jordan said Americans have lost trust in Mueller and the Russia investigation, and Rosenstein ought to disband it and begin to probe efforts within Justice and the FBI to undermine Trump as president.

The inspector general at Justice is doing that already, Rosenstein repeated.

“What’s it going to get to get a second special counsel to answer these questions?” Jordan shot back.

“High-ranking FBI officials involved in the Clinton investigation were personally invested in the outcome of the election,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, says during Wednesday’s hearing. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters/Newscom)

‘Showing Disdain’

In his statement, Goodlatte specified major issues with the special counsel’s probe of possible coordination between Trump campaign operatives and Russian officials:

First, we have FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page exchanging communications showing extreme bias against President Trump, a fact that would be bad enough if it weren’t for the fact that these two individuals were employed as part of the Mueller ‘dream team’ investigating the very person for whom they were showing disdain.

And calling it mere ‘disdain’ is generous.  According to the documents produced last night to this committee, Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page referred to the president as “an utter idiot,” “a loathsome human,” and “awful,” while continually praising Hillary Clinton and the Obamas.

These text messages prove what we all suspected: High-ranking FBI officials involved in the Clinton investigation were personally invested in the outcome of the election, and clearly let their strong political opinions cloud their professional judgment. And this was only an ‘initial disclosure,’ containing heavy redactions.

Second, former embattled FBI general counsel and current Mueller prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, expressed his ‘awe’ of a former DOJ official [Acting Attorney General Sally Yates] for shunning the president and failing to faithfully execute the law. However, we are the ones now in ‘awe’ that someone like Mr. Weissmann remains on an investigative team that looks more and more partisan.

Third, we have learned that a top Mueller prosecutor, Jeannie Rhee, in addition to other actions that would normally justify recusal, served as an attorney for the Clinton Foundation. Aren’t DOJ attorneys advised to avoid even the ‘appearance of impropriety?’ A former Clinton employee is now investigating President Trump. This seems to be the very definition of  ‘appearance of impropriety.’

Fourth, we just recently learned that another top DOJ official, Bruce Ohr, has been reassigned because of his and his wife’s connections with the infamous [Trump] ‘dossier’ and the company [Fusion GPS] from whom the opposition research document originated.

‘The Runaround’

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a Washington-based nonprofit that promotes “integrity, transparency, and accountability in government,” released a YouTube statement Tuesday about what he said were “anti-Trump and pro-Hillary text messages.”

Fitton called on the Justice Department to respond to Judicial Watch’s related requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

“We are getting the runaround from this Justice Department and this FBI in our Freedom of Information Act lawsuits,” he said. “The coverup and secrecy must end. We want the documents now.”

The Justice Department did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for information Wednesday on any policy or guidelines governing text messages and other mobile messaging on government devices, and for a comment on whether the Russia probe is undermined by political bias.

Heritage’s von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal in an email that Rosenstein should revoke Mueller’s authority to pursue Russia-related questions since there are too many “conflicts of interest” at work.

He said:

How can you have lawyers working on this special investigation who represented the Clinton Foundation; represented the IT staffer who installed the home server; attended Hillary’s election eve party; supported [acting Attorney General] Sally Yates’ unprofessional and unethical behavior? All of this raises serious questions about Mueller and the lawyers he has hired and his lack of judgment. The work of this special counsel seems to now be irretrievably suspect.

After revoking Mueller’s authority, von Spakovsky said, Rosenstein “should ask the Criminal Division of the Justice Department and its career prosecutors to investigate the very narrow issue of Russian election collusion.”

No Improper Orders

During the hearing, Democrats–Reps. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Eric Swalwell of California among them–asked Rosenstein whether Trump ever interfered with investigations.

“I told you I have never received any improper orders,” Rosenstein snapped to Johnson at one point.

“Are you afraid of President Trump firing you?” Johnson asked.

“No, I am not,” Rosenstein replied.

Other Democrats cast Republicans as running down the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department.

In response to questions from Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Texas, Rosenstein made an emotional defense of Mueller’s reputation, record, resume, and experience.

“I believe he was an ideal choice for this task,” Rosenstein concluded.

The post After Texts Show Bias of FBI Agents in Russia Probe, GOP Lawmakers Question Justice Official in Testy Hearing appeared first on The Daily Signal.

FBI Agent Calls Trump an ‘Idiot’ in Text to Fellow Special Counsel Investigator

FBI agent Peter Strzok referred to President Donald Trump as an “idiot” in a series of texts exchanged with then-fellow special counsel investigator Lisa Page during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I just saw my first Bernie Sander[s] bumper sticker. Made me want to key the car,” Page, now a senior FBI lawyer, wrote in a message to Strzok, released by the Department of Justic Tuesday night.

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“He’s an idiot like Trump. Figure they cancel each other out,” Strzok replied.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein released 375 of Strzok’s Trump-related text messages to the House Intelligence Committee. The communications span over a year, from Aug. 16, 2015, to Dec. 1, 2016. Rosenstein is scheduled to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday

Strzok, who was dismissed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in the early summer after DOJ officials learned he sent messages to a colleague mocking Trump, also referred to the president as a “loathsome human” and said, “God, Hillary [Clinton] should win 100,000,000 – 0,” in a string of March 2016 texts text messages obtained by USA Today.

Page’s detail on Mueller’s team concluded before the text messages were unearthed during an Office of the Inspector General inquiry into political bias on the special counsel.

The pair also disparaged House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Page said she hoped Ryan “fails and crashes in a blaze of glory,” to which Strzok responded, “[the GOP] needs to pull their head out of that a–. Shows no sign of occurring any time soon.”

Strzok, who also helped lead the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, softened former FBI Director James Comey’s description of her behavior from “grossly negligent”—a term that carries legal weight—to “extremely careless.”

Fox News reported in early December that the wife of a Department of Justice attorney was once employed by Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the Steele dossier, which amounted to a compilation of unverified salacious claims about Trump’s ties to Russia.

The report led Trump’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, to call for a special counsel to examine bias among Mueller’s investigators. Additionally, conservatives have demanded a special prosecutor to examine Comey’s decision to forego pursuing criminal charges against Clinton.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who ordered federal prosecutors to look into Republican lawmakers’ calls for a special counsel, said Strzok’s anti-Trump communications “would raise serious questions of public trust” if proven to be true in a Dec. 2 statement.

“We will ensure that anyone who works on any investigation in the Department of Justice does so objectively and free from bias or favoritism,” Sessions said.

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