Washington, USA– President Trump is expected to appoint a commission on Thursday to study his unproven allegations of voter fraud in last year’s presidential election, as he continues to grapple with the fallout from his abrupt and controversial firing of FBI Director James Comey, USA Today reports.
Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be chairman and vice-chairman of the commission, which is expected to be composed largely of state and local election officials from both parties, officials said:
“The Commission will review policies and practices that enhance or undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of Federal elections – including improper registrations, improper voting, fraudulent registrations, fraudulent voting, and voting suppression,” the White House said in a statement.
Trump, who lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 2.9 million votes, has claimed that last year’s election included up to 3 to 5 million fraudulent voters – but there is no evidence to back this assertion.
Trump plans to sign an executive order creating the commission as Democrats and other critics accuse him of firing Comey to obstruct an ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russians who tried to influence last year’s election.
The president is planning a visit to the FBI headquarters in the coming days to calm the waters, administration officials said. But the unexpected announcement of the new commission – which was not on Trump’s public schedule for the day – might be seen as a way to distract from the firestorm unleashed by the Comey firing earlier this week.
Meanwhile, federal and state election officials from both parties have disputed Trump’s claims of massive voter fraud. They say there have been few, if any, incidents of people voting when they were not registered – or voting by people who were not American citizens.
“Every election is going to have issues, but I don’t think that three to five million people voting illegally was one of those issues,” said Thomas Hicks, chairman of the federal Election Assistance Commission said in January in USA TODAY .
Election officials have said they worry Trump’s claims could shake the faith of voters, particularly at a time when the FBI and Congress are investigating whether Russia interfered in last year’s presidential election.
For his part, Trump has stood by his claim.
“We’ll see after the committee,” Trump told Time magazine in March.
Trump had originally been expected to sign the executive order creating the voter commission in late January, but it has been consistently been put off.
Already, voting rights advocates are blasting Thursday’s expected order.
“In no uncertain terms we condemn the launch of this so-called Presidential Commission on Election Integrity,’’ Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement. “President Trump is trying to create a distraction from actual threats to our democracy, such as ongoing voter suppression and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.’’
Voting rights advocates say the administration should focus on making access to the polls easier instead of unfounded claims of voter fraud. They argue some lawmakers are using the claim to ramp up more restrictive election laws.
States, mostly controlled by Republican legislatures, have adopted more election laws, including voter ID, in recent years. Supporters say they help protect against voter fraud.
Trump’s order get support from some Republican lawmakers, who have welcomed a federal investigation into allegations of voter fraud.
“Safeguarding our democracy requires fair and accurate elections,” Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., chairman of the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal elections, said earlier this year.