President Trump warned Wednesday about the dangers of voter fraud but told a panel he launched to study the issue that it should follow the facts wherever they lead, and that “no conclusions” have been drawn about what they will find.
“Every time voter fraud occurs it cancels out the vote of a lawful citizen and undermines democracy,” Trump said during an appearance before the inaugural meeting of the panel. “We can’t let that happen. Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting, whether by noncitizens or the deceased, and any form of voter suppression or intimidation must be stopped.”
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was spawned by Trump’s repeated and unsubstantiated claims that illegal voting cost him the popular vote against Hillary Clinton last year. Vice President Pence, who Trump tapped to chair the 12-member panel, presided over the group’s first meeting Wednesday at the White House complex.
During his brief remarks, Trump repeatedly characterized the group as a “bipartisan panel” — it includes seven Republicans and five Democrats — and said it is engaging in “very, very important work.”
“If we want to make American great again, we have to protect the integrity of the vote and our voters,” Trump said.
Pence and the panel’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, are both Republicans. Pence promised a “healthy and robust debate” in the months ahead.
“This commission, let me be clear, has no preconceived notions or preordained results,” Trump said. “We’re fact-finders.”
Even before its first meeting, the commission had prompted intense controversy. A request for massive amounts of voter data from the states late last month was met with stiff resistance, even from many Republican-led states, and prompted multiple lawsuits.
The suits accuse the panel of breaching the privacy of tens of millions of Americans and offering no indication of what it plans to do with the data, including home addresses, dates of birth and partial Social Security numbers.
Trump said he’s pleased that more than 30 states agreed to provide information as allowed under their respective state laws. He said the other states should be more forthcoming.
“If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they are worried about,” Trump said. “And I ask…