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Judge rules against Trump election commission

State House Bureau

December 26. 2017 11:13PM
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner speaks during the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity at St. Anselm College in September 2017. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)

The Maine secretary of state has prevailed in his effort to obtain documents from President Trump's election commission, which has gone silent since a meeting hosted in New Hampshire by N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner in September.

A federal judge for the U.S. District of Columbia ruled on Dec. 22 that Matthew Dunlap, a member of the commission like Gardner, has a right to the documents he sued for in November.

Despite the silence surrounding the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity since it met at St. Anselm College on Sept. 12, Dunlap believes there is activity taking place, but certain commission members are being excluded from the conversations.

He sued the commission on Nov. 9 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming that the exclusion of some commission members is a violation of the federal law governing advisory committees.

"I think there is manifest evidence that people are working and talking but not talking to all of the commissioners," he said at the time.

Lawyers for the commission argued that Dunlap is not entitled to all of the documents alluded to in his lawsuit, but rather only those used by the commission “as a whole.”

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected that argument, calling it “outdated and indefensible.”

The commission can’t deprive Dunlap of the documents “simply because they have not been provided to all commissioners,” she wrote. “Plaintiff is entitled to substantive information so that he can contribute along the way in shaping the ultimate recommendations of the commission.”

The presidential commission was ordered to “provide plaintiff with these documents and any similar documents that exist now or in the future.”

The commission attorneys offered Dunlap the opportunity to review the documents without receiving copies or taking notes, which the judge deemed “not a reasonable offer.”

“If the defendants have decided that (Dunlap) should be permitted to review documents, then he should be permitted to take notes and to make copies if he thinks that doing so would be useful," she wrote.

Dunlap is hoping the emails, correspondence and other materials will shed some light on communication that has taken place between commission chairman Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and likeminded commission members.

Gardner, who like Dunlap has been excluded from such communication, was unavailable for comment.

"I'm not trying to derail the commission. I'm trying to become a functioning member of it,” Dunlap said in a previous interview. “I'm not asking for classified information, just our working papers, and get nothing but silence."

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