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September 13, 2017
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After falsely claiming that 3-5 million people voted illegally for his opponent in the 2016 election, President Trump announced his intention in late January to set up a commission to investigate voter fraud, a decision he formalized with an executive order in May. On Feb. 22, a Heritage Foundation employee wrote an email to Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying he'd heard the "disturbing" news that the commission's chairman, Vice President Mike Pence, planned to make the panel bipartisan and urged that only like-minded conservatives be appointed, according to a copy of the email obtained by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center (CLC) through a freedom-of-information request.

The Justice Department redacted the name of the Heritage Foundation's self-proclaimed vote-fraud expert, but the conservative think tank effectively confirmed to Gizmodo that the author was Hans von Spakovsky, who was later appointed to the commission and is identified by the CLC as "widely considered the architect of the voter fraud myth." At the commission's second public meeting on Tuesday, before Heritage confirmed that Spakovsky wrote the email, Pro Publica's Jessica Huseman asked him "point blank" if he'd "authored this document, he said no." She posted audio of the exchange.

In the email, the Heritage Foundation employee presumed to be Spakovsky argued to Sessions that "there isn't a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud" and claim that the commission "is engaged in voter suppression," and that "mainstream Republican officials and/or academics" would also make the commission "an abject failure." The author also complained that none of the "real experts on the conservative side" had been appointed "other than Kris Kobach," the committee's vice chairman, Kansas secretary of state, and Breitbart News columnist.

Pence and Kobach eventually appointed seven Republicans and five Democrats to the commission, though one Democrat resigned. But the CLC said that the email adds "to the mounting evidence that the commission has no interest in true bipartisanship or an open discussion of how to solve the real problems in our elections." CLC president Trevor Potter, a former GOP chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said that Kobach's "farcical meetings" continue "to validate the worst suspicions about the commission: that it is designed to shrink the electorate for partisan advantage." He suggested they focus on "a true issue of election integrity" like Russians buying political ads on Facebook.

UPDATE: Spakovsky said in a statement that the email was sent to "private individuals who were not in the administration" and "was unaware that it had been forwarded" to Sessions. He added that he now believes the commission is "committed to uncovering the truth about election integrity and the other issues present in our election system." Peter Weber

9:22 p.m. ET
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Donald Hall, the poet laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007, died Saturday at his home in New Hampshire. He was 89.

Hall began writing at age 12, and over his career wrote more than 40 books, with half of them poetry. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received the National Medal of Arts in 2010 and the National Book Critics Circle prize. Hall wrote often about his childhood, baseball, and the loss of his second wife, poet Jane Kenyon, and lived at Eagle Pond Farm, property that his family has owned since the 1860s.

During a 2012 interview with NPR's Fresh Air, Hall said that his "body causes me trouble when I cross the room, but when I am sitting down writing, I am in my heaven — my old heaven." Catherine Garcia

8:42 p.m. ET
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a second term Sunday, the country's election authority said.

Turkish state media says that of the votes counted, Erdogan received 53 percent and his closest opponent, Muharrem Ince, received 31 percent. Erdogan declared victory before the official results were announced.

After a failed coup in 2016, Erdogan moved to consolidate his power, and a new constitution that received 51 percent of the vote last year will soon go into effect. Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the attempted coup.

State media reports that 96 percent of votes for parliament have been counted, with Erdogan's AK Party receiving 42 percent and main opposition party CHP 23 percent; the pro-Kurdish HDP party is expected to receive at least 10 percent of the vote. The final election results will be announced Friday, and should Erdogan not receive more than 50 percent of the vote, a second-round vote between Erdogan and Ince will be held July 8. Catherine Garcia

1:50 p.m. ET

President Trump has faced institutional checks and balances to his power, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) argued on ABC's This Week Sunday, but they haven't come from Congress.

It's difficult "for a lot of my colleagues to say, 'Hey, let's stand up to the president," Flake told host George Stephanopoulos. "But, boy, we ought to more jealously guard our institutional prerogative. I think in this crisis we're in, I think the judiciary has stood up well. The press has stood up well in terms of institutions. The balance. But the Congress has been lacking."

Flake highlighted tariffs as an issue where congressional Republicans ought to be pushing back, and he suggested that refusing to confirm judicial nominees might prod Trump to shift his stance. "I do think that unless we can actually exercise something other than just approving the president's executive calendar — his nominees, judges — that we have no reason to be there," Flake said. "So I think myself and a number of senators, at least a few of us, will stand up and say, 'Let's not move any more judges until we get a vote, for example, on tariffs.'"

In his final question, Stephanopoulos asked whether Flake, who is not seeking re-election, might "be prepared to challenge the president in 2020." Watch his answer below. Bonnie Kristian

1:18 p.m. ET

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declined to join other progressive politicos in endorsing the call to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during an appearance on CNN's State of the Union Sunday.

"More than a dozen Democratic congressional candidates reportedly support abolishing ICE," said host Jake Tapper. "Do you agree that ICE should be abolished?"

"I think that what we need is to create policies which deal with immigration in a rational way," Sanders answered, sidestepping the question. "And a rational way is not locking children up in detention centers or separating them from their mothers."

Tapper also pressed Sanders as to whether the left "only seemed to start caring about these [immigrant children detained by the government] under Trump," noting that some Democrats circulated photos "taken in 2014 under the Obama administration during the unaccompanied minors crisis from that year," unfairly attributing the situation depicted to Trump in 2018.

Sanders pushed back, arguing that Democrats had "a lot of concern about how undocumented people were treated under Obama," and that Trump's immigration policy operates at a distinct level of abuse. Watch an excerpt of his comments below. Bonnie Kristian

12:47 p.m. ET

President Trump on Twitter Sunday proposed that immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally be immediately deported without due process:

The tweet's proposal is similar to comments Trump made Tuesday. "I don't want judges," he said. "I want border security. I don't want to try people. I don't want people coming in. Do you know, if a person comes in and puts one foot on our ground, it's essentially, 'Welcome to America, welcome to our country.' You never get them out, because they take their name, they bring the name down, they file it, then they let the person go. They say, 'Show back up to court in one year from now.'"

Sometimes, the president is very fond of due process. In February, he plaintively asked on Twitter whether there is "no such thing any longer as Due Process," apparently objecting to public critique of men accused of domestic abuse. Bonnie Kristian

11:26 a.m. ET
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The Trump administration will soon debut its Israel-Palestine peace plan, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said in an interview published Sunday by Al-Quds, an Arabic language newspaper.

The proposal will be released with or without feedback from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he announced. Abbas has refused to meet with Kushner during his trip to the Middle East this past week. "If President Abbas is willing to come back to the table, we are ready to engage," Kushner said. "If he is not, we will likely air the plan publicly."

The Al-Quds article offered some hints as to what the plan might entail. Kushner "mentioned nothing about a sovereign Palestinian state or of Palestinian refugees," The New York Times reports, and "also did not mention Israeli settlements on the West Bank or using the 1967 lines as a starting point to draw borders; and nothing about East Jerusalem serving as the Palestinian capital." Bonnie Kristian

11:14 a.m. ET
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Turkey votes in a presidential and parliamentary election Sunday, a snap election in which President Recep Tayip Erdogan is expected to face his most serious challenge in a decade and a half.

Erdogan called the election in April, planning to consolidate his party's parliamentary majority. Instead, opposition parties have displayed unusual unity, galvanized by the campaign performance of Muharrem Ince, the presidential nominee of the Republican People's Party (CHP).

Erdogan has claimed new powers and kept Turkey in a state of emergency since an attempted coup two years ago. If he wins another term, "Turkey enters a new era in which Erdogan will become the most powerful Turkish leader ever elected," said Soner Cagaptay of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute. Cagaptay and fellow critics of Erdogan's government argue he is undermining democratic institutions to expand his own authority.

Results are anticipated Sunday evening local time. Bonnie Kristian

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