Trump accidentally exposes the lie at the heart of the Pence-Kobach voter fraud commission.

Trump Proves He’s Open-Minded on Voter Fraud Like Tobacco Companies Were Open-Minded on Cancer

Trump Proves He’s Open-Minded on Voter Fraud Like Tobacco Companies Were Open-Minded on Cancer

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July 19 2017 1:35 PM

Trump Proves He’s Open-Minded on Voter Fraud Like Tobacco Companies Were Open-Minded on Cancer

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Trump speaks alongside Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach during the first meeting of the president's voter fraud squad at the White House on Wednesday.

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A once-marginal movement to prove the existence of rampant voter fraud in America was formally embraced and empowered by President Donald Trump on Wednesday, as his administration’s commission on “election integrity” held its first public hearing. Trump, whose interest in voter fraud is fueled by his stated belief that millions of people illegally voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, offered some congratulatory remarks as the hearing got underway, telling the ostensibly bipartisan panel that he looked forward to their recommendations and was entrusting them with “the scared duty of upholding the integrity of the ballot box and the principle of ‘one citizen, one vote.’ ”

Leon Neyfakh Leon Neyfakh

Leon Neyfakh is a Slate staff writer.

The hearing comes about two weeks after the commission—which is led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—brought on voter fraud activists Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams as panel members and asked election officials in all 50 states to submit their registered voters’ names, addresses, party affiliations, and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. It has been reported that at least 14 states have informed the commission they will not comply with the request at all, and at least 44 have said they would not comply with it in its entirety.

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In toasting the commission during his remarks on Wednesday, Trump inadvertently revealed the lie that resides in its premise for existing. With one side of his mouth, he instructed the panel members to approach their research “with a very open mind and with no conclusions already drawn,” and told them to “fairly and objectively follow the facts wherever they may lead.” With the other, he made sneering reference to states that have declined to honor the commission’s request for voter information, implying they were resisting because they had something to hide. “One has to wonder what they’re worried about,” Trump said. “There’s something. There always is.”

The Pence-Kobach commission is the government-funded equivalent of a team of researchers being paid by a tobacco company to study the link between cancer and smoking. Ostensibly the research is being undertaken in the spirit of open inquiry, but in reality it’s rigged to produce a specific result that will be useful to its patrons. Trump and the others overseeing this effort feel obligated to say the commission has no preconceived notions, because otherwise they won’t be able to say its conclusions have any credibility. But Trump’s comments about states having “something” to hide confirms what was already obvious: The purpose of this commission is to lend credibility to the false idea that elections are being routinely compromised through voter fraud.

“This issue is very important to me,” Trump said.

Translation: I know you won’t disappoint me.