WASHINGTON (CN) – A nonpartisan campaign reform group wants a federal judge to compel the Justice Department to un-redact names from a chain of emails secured through a Freedom of Information Act request that it says shed light on the inner workings of President Trump’s now defunct voter fraud commission.
President Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to investigate his belief that millions of illegal aliens and others not eligible to vote cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election — an allegation he says explains his losing to Democrat Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by about 3 million votes.
The president disbanded the commission in January, claiming that “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.”
Shortly after the commission was formed, the Campaign Legal Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information about the commission and its formation. Months later, the center received a heavily redacted email thread including a statement by one participant expressing shock that Democrats had been invited to participate.
“There isn’t a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud and issue constant public announcements criticizing the commission and what it is doing, making claims that is engaged in voter suppression,” one email says. “That decision alone shows how little the WHouse [sic] understands about this issue.”
Later in the thread, someone says, “[Redacted] are concerned that this commission is being organized in a way that will guarantee its failure. We are astonished that no one in the WH has even bothered to consult with [redacted] despite the fact that the three of us have written more on voter fraud issue than anyone in the country on our side of the political aisle.”
In a federal complaint filed Tuesday in Washington, D.C., the center asks the court to compel the Justice Department to remove the redacted names from email exchanges to expose what it sees as bias in the formation and activities of the commission.
“[The email thread] revealed the true partisan intent of the commission to suppress the vote,” said Corey Goldstone, a spokesperson for the organization. “If Trump wanted this to be a serious commission that looked at election integrity he would have considered another strategy besides lying to the American public about millions of people voting illegally.”
According to the complaint, the Justice Department used many “B6” exemptions to redact names of those involved in the email chain.
Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, a public policy law firm that specialized in FOIA matters, said the B6 exemption is used to withhold information if it includes “personal privacy interests” and they can only be overturned if there is an overriding public interest.
Considering the political nature of the exchange, McClanahan said such B6 exemptions should not apply here.
“In this case, the overriding public interest is in exposing government misconduct,” he said. “[This is] DOJ career officials exchanging emails with and about a political issue.”
“That’s not just relaying information. It’s political gamesmanship,” McClanahan said.