September 29, 2017

Whitehouse Presses Civil Rights Nominee on Communication with Members of Trump Voter Commission

Criticizes Dreiband’s evasive answer on voter fraud

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wants an answer from President Donald Trump’s choice to run the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division on his possible contacts with members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and others who have pushed false claims of widespread voter fraud in American elections.  Whitehouse is also disappointed in the nominee’s failure to repudiate President Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims.

On Monday, Trump’s nominee for Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Eric Dreiband, submitted responses to Senators’ follow-up questions to his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.  However, Dreiband dodged Whitehouse’s question about whether he had communicated with Commission members and other purveyors of false information on voter fraud. 

“I have heard from many people about my nomination,” Dreiband wrote in reply to Whitehouse.  That response is “plainly non-responsive and inadequate,” Whitehouse writes in re-submitting his question before an expected Judiciary Committee vote on the nomination next week.

In response to a request from Whitehouse that the nominee repudiate President Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud, Dreiband claimed he was “unable to comment” because he was “not aware of data or analyses regarding this issue.”

The Commission has drawn widespread criticism for seeking sensitive voter roll data on the majority of the voting public and conducted highly partisan hearings based on discredited allegations of voter fraud.  In a letter sent earlier this week, Whitehouse and other Senators raised numerous concerns with apparent coordination between the Commission and the Civil Rights Division. 

In March, three members of the Commission—Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Civil Rights Division staffers J. Christopher Adams and Hans von Spakovsky—wrote a letter calling on the Justice Department to rid the Civil Rights Division of “ideological rot” by stripping career attorneys of hiring and firing authority and vesting that authority with Trump political appointees.  In June, the Commission and the Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division sent letters on the same day to state election officials seeking extensive voter roll information, including names, dates of birth, voting histories, and party identifications. 

Full text of Whitehouse’s re-submitted question is below.  A PDF is available here.

Nomination of Eric Dreiband to be

Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights

Division Questions for the Record

Submitted September 28, 2017 


In my Questions for the Record, I asked whether, while you were under consideration for this nomination and since your nomination, you had been in communication with a list of seven specific individuals.  If so, I asked you to generally indicate the purpose of those communications, and whether these conversations involved discussions about particular Civil Rights Division initiatives or personnel.  As you likely know, several of the individuals I listed have been responsible for perpetuation of false and debunked claims of widespread voter fraud in American elections.  Some have also urged a return to the illegal politicization of the Civil Rights Division, including calling for a cleansing of the so-called “ideological rot” of career attorneys hired during the Obama-era.  If you had conversations with these individuals about the past, present, or future work of the Civil Rights Division, it is important that we know about them.    

You declined to answer my question straightforwardly, responding: “I have heard from many people about my nomination. The communications have generally involved messages of support about the nomination and general background about the Civil Rights Division.”  This answer is plainly non-responsive and inadequate.  Accordingly, I repeat my question: 

While you were under consideration for this nomination and since your nomination, have you been in communication with the following individuals? If so, please generally indicate the purpose of those communications, and whether these conversations involved discussions about particular initiatives or personnel.

a. Kris Kobach

b. Hans von Spakovsky

c. J. Christian Adams

d. Bradley Schlozman

e. Roger Clegg

f. Roger Severino

g. Chuck Cooper

I am also disappointed that you chose not to provide a substantive response to my request that you repudiate claims of widespread voter fraud.  As the person nominated to lead our nation’s enforcement of federal civil rights laws, your answer that you are “not aware of data or analyses regarding this issue” is simply not adequate.  I recently wrote to Attorney General Sessions and others at DOJ that “It would be a low moment for the Department to have been a facilitator of the myth – perhaps a fraud in its own right – that widespread voter fraud is a problem plaguing our election system, especially when the Department itself has produced evidence to the contrary.”  I would expect any candidate for this position to be conversant on this issue and have an opinion about how it relates to the Department’s enforcement of laws that protect the voting rights of all Americans.  Please take this as an opportunity to revise your answer.   


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