The big news yesterday was that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has conceded that Russia succeeded in actually penetrating voter rolls for the 2016 election in a limited number of states:
A U.S. cybersecurity official said Wednesday that Russia “successfully penetrated” the voter rolls in a small number of states in 2016.
Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told NBC News that Russia targeted 21 states and “an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated.”
This news immediately brought to mind a prior, curious story — the sudden and unexplained termination by Trump of his “Voter Fraud Commission” led by Kris Kobach. Couldn’t these stories be related? You will remember that the termination of this Voter Fraud Commission came out of nowhere and was left as a bit of a head scratcher. Per the NYT:
President Trump on Wednesday abruptly shut down a White House commission he had charged with investigating voter fraud, ending a brief quest for evidence of election theft that generated lawsuits, outrage and some scholarly testimony, but no real evidence that American elections are corrupt.
Indeed, the defining characteristic of the reporting on this was that the termination of Trump’s pet voter fraud crusade was sudden and unexplained. Slate called it an “abrupt dissolution.” Vanity Fair reported it as an “abrupt abandonment.” Politico noted that there was “no warning” of the decision. The Atlantic raised “lingering questions” in the wake of the sudden decision. VP Pence refused to answer inquiries on the decision. The Washington Post speculated on numerous explanations for this “major setback” curiously engineered by the Trump administration itself.
So, I did a quick bit of digging and found the following:
- On September 22, 2017, “[t]he Department of Homeland Security contacted election officials in 21 states … to notify them that they had been targeted by Russian government hackers during the 2016 election campaign.”
- On February 7, 2018, the DHS acknowledged that it has since learned that of those 21 states, “an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated.”
So, what happened between September 22, 2017 and February 7, 2018 — a time period when the DHS learned that Russians had actually penetrated voter rolls?
- On [January 3, 2018], “Trump suddenly disbanded the controversial commission he charged with investigating alleged voter fraud in May[.]”
Hmm, sometime between September 22nd and February 7th the DHS learned that the Russians’ election interference efforts were more successful at actually penetrating voter rolls — and during that same time period President Trump abruptly and mysteriously disbanded his pet Voter Fraud Commission . . . a commission that would have been directly charged with investigating news that Russians had successfully penetrated voter rolls. If this commission had not been disbanded, Trump could have found himself investigating Russian election interference. Coincidentally, the Voter Fraud Commission was abruptly disbanded?
But wait . . . what happened to the work of the Voter Fraud Commission after January 3rd? Well, it was transferred to the DHS. And, curiously, Kris Kobach was totally supportive of the decision to end his commission, his star-making turn, and said he would become . . . “an informal adviser to homeland security.”
And who was against this move disbanding the Voter Fraud Commission and moving it to the DHS? The leading Democratic opponent of the Voter Fraud Commission, who said at the time and before this latest revelation:
In a telephone interview late Wednesday, Mr. Dunlap, a Democrat and a member of the panel who has consistently criticized the commission’s operations, said the White House’s decision to move the inquiry to the Department of Homeland Security was “utterly alarming.”
“Homeland security operates very much in the dark,” he said. “Any chance of having this investigation done in a public forum is now lost, and I think people should be, frankly, frightened by that.”
While the conduct of elections now rests with state officials, he said, “Secretary Kobach wants homeland security to make those decisions without public input. That’s the real threat from this decision.”
The real threat — and the real motivation — for this decision?
Obviously, reporters from the NYT and WashPo et al. should look into this. But in this day and age, I have a more appropriate and effective suggestion:
“Hey Mr. Mueller! Do you think that some subpoenas to Mr. Kobach and the DHS might make some sense?”