"It was a chaotic start to the commission," Shapiro said
The judge ordered that the commission to explain its process
The head of President Donald Trump’s voter integrity commission is reaching out to fellow panel members to ensure the group’s meeting next month operates with “the highest levels of transparency,” after the Justice Department fell on its sword about prior document disclosure failures to a federal judge in DC Wednesday.
“I wanted to contact you with a request regarding any written materials for the September 12 meeting,” said Kris Kobach, vice chair of the commission in a letter to the other commissioners. “We want to ensure we operate with the highest level of transparency and in a way that allows the public to be fully informed of our commission’s work.”
Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Shapiro apologized to US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in court for what she called a “misunderstanding” over what documents the commission was required to produce in advance of its first meeting on July 19 under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
“It was a chaotic start to the commission,” Shapiro said. “There was a little bit of unknown and a little bit of disorganization in terms of how the meeting would happen.”
Kobach sent a letter to all 50 states requesting a slew of voter-roll data in late June and states began sending their records earlier this month.
The current lawsuit – one of at least seven pending against the commission – was brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in early July. While the judge denied the group’s initial request to block the commission from holding its meeting in July, she allowed the suit to move forward with the understanding that it would turn over materials prepared for or by the panel.
Kollar-Kotelly agreed Wednesday with the Lawyers’ Committee that the commission failed to “live up to the representations” made to the court before the first meeting.
In a written order later Wednesday, the judge ordered that the commission to submit a detailed declaration to court now explaining its process for identifying documents to be disclosed going forward, as well as an index listing “what specific documents have been collected with respect to the Commission to date, which of those have been disclosed, and if they have not been disclosed, on what basis.”
The judge denied the request to depose Kobach for now.
The Justice Department declined to comment.