Beset by controversy, the threat of lawsuits, and resistance from some states to participate in any investigation, the White House announced late Wednesday that President Donald Trump was ending a special panel on voter fraud, which had not uncovered evidence to support claims by the President and some Republicans that millions of votes had been illegally cast in the 2016 elections.
“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today President Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action,” the White House Press Secretary said in a written statement.
Mr. Trump blamed a number of states for refusing to give election data to the panel, known officially as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
After the 2016 elections, in which Hillary Clinton won the popular vote over Mr. Trump by more than 3 million votes, the President had raised questions about the possibility of voter fraud.
In his first days in office in January 2017, the President had promised a “major investigation” of voter fraud, claiming state officials were ignoring large election troubles.
“There are millions of votes in my opinion,” Mr. Trump told ABC News, arguing all of the illegal votes had gone to Clinton and Democrats.
At the first meeting of the panel in July of last year, the President said too many lawful votes were being canceled out by illegal ones.
"Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting – whether by non-citizens or the deceased," Mr. Trump said, "must be stopped."
But the panel did not produce evidence of major vote fraud.
“This dissolution is good news. This commission was based on a falsehood – that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 elections,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
“Trump's voter fraud commission was a shameful attempt at voter suppression that should have never existed in the first place,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).
“Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission was an offense, based on a lie, blatantly seeking to suppress votes,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).
“The commission never had anything to do with election integrity,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.
“It was instead a front to suppress the vote, perpetrate dangerous and baseless claims, and was ridiculed from one end of the country to the other,” Schumer added.
“In other words, @HillaryClinton won the popular vote,” tweeted Dan Pfeiffer, a former top aide to President Barack Obama.
The decision to end the panel at this time came was not expected. In an interview last week, the chair of the panel had said multiple lawsuits were getting in the way of the commission’s work, but that the panel would be meeting in January.
“We have a very small staff in Washington, D.C., and that staff has been bogged down in litigation,”
said Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State in Kansas, and head of the panel.