(CN) - President Donald Trump announced Wednesday night that he is dissolving his controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a body charged with investigating his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud during the 2016 election.
In a brief statement the president said, “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.
"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,” he added.
Trump created the bipartisan commission by executive order in May. The president has claimed, without evidence, that thousands of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, accounting for Democrat Hillary Clinton's victory in the popular vote.
In November, a committee member, Maine’s Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, sued the panel claiming its GOP majority actively kept Democrats out of the loop on the group’s work. A federal judge agreed and on Dec. 22 ruled Dunlap was improperly excluded from participating on the commission’s work and was directly denied access to information needed to fulfill his role by commission vice chair Kris Kobach.
“It’s no coincidence that the president dissolved the commission once it became clear it wouldn’t be permitted to operate in the shadows. Secretary Dunlap deserves our gratitude for stepping into the breach to take on adversaries of democracy,” said Austin Evers, executive director of watchdog American Oversight.
Evers said in the statement Wednesday his organization will continue to fight for Dunlap’s right to access the commission’s “secret communications.”
“President Trump can dissolve the commission, but the law doesn’t allow him or the commission to slink away from view and accountability,” Evers said.
According to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, or FACA, the commission was required by law to provide equal information as a group conducts its inquiries.
“Dunlap had repeatedly sought access to commission records, including meeting materials, witness invitations and correspondence with other commissioners but had been rebuffed on each occasion,” Evers recalled.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed complaints against the commission early on, citing federal disclosure and open meeting law violations, called the dissolution a victory Wednesday evening.
"The President's Election Integrity Commission was a vehicle launched for the sole purpose of laying the groundwork to promote voter suppression policies on a national scale,” said Kristen Clarke, the committee's president. “This unprecedented effort demonstrated this administration's clear hostility to voting rights. We mounted successful litigation against the administration that exposed its failure to abide by federal transparency requirements and vowed to keep fighting until the Commission was terminated. [Wednesday’s] Executive Order disbanding the Commission is a victory for those who are concerned about ensuring access to the ballot box across the country.”
Clarke agreed that forcing accountability on the Trump administration through “vigilance” is the best way to preserve civil rights.
“As with the Muslim Ban, this administration has a track record of repackaging and reissuing old and discriminatory policies. At every turn, we will fight this administration's attempts to restrict the voting rights of ordinary Americans,” she said.
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