Matt Johnson: Kobach embraces Trump’s ‘power lies’

President Donald Trump, with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence, speaks at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. (July 2017 file photo/The Associated Press)

There are times when a lie is so flagrant and outrageous that it sounds more like an insult than an attempt to conceal the truth. Or worse: an act of domination. That’s why President Trump’s lies are often so bold and pugnacious — he’s not trying to convince us of anything. He doesn’t care about evidence or consistency. He just wants to revel in the unquestioning loyalty of his supporters and sneer at the outrage of his opponents.

 

Masha Gessen recently explained that a “Trumpian lie … is distinct from other kinds of political lying. It might be called a power lie: its purpose is not to convince the audience of something that isn’t true but to demonstrate the power of the speaker.” The same impulse led Trump to announce that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Trump told one of his most remarkable power lies a few weeks after he was elected president: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

He later told congressional leaders that 3 million to 5 million “illegals” were responsible for his failure to receive more votes than Hillary Clinton — just enough to cover the 2.9 million-vote gap between them. So Trump didn’t just know how many fraudulent votes were cast — he knew they were all cast by undocumented immigrants. What’s more, he knew every single one of them went to his opponent: “Those were Hillary votes. And if you look at it they all voted for Hillary. They all voted for Hillary. They didn’t vote for me. I don’t believe I got one. Okay, these are people that voted for Hillary Clinton.”

If you know anything about how uncommon voter fraud is in the United States — particularly fraud committed by undocumented immigrants and other non-citizens — you have to be stupefied by the sheer audacity of this claim. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice points out that “fraud is vanishingly rare, and does not happen on a scale even close to that necessary to ‘rig’ an election.” For example, the center notes that a U.S. Department of Justice unit was established to uncover fraud in the 2002 and 2004 federal elections, but it could only “prove that 0.00000013 percent of ballots cast were fraudulent.”

Secretary of State Kris Kobach has had the power to prosecute voter fraud in Kansas since 2015, but he has only been able to secure nine convictions — one of which was of a noncitizen.

Speaking of Kobach, he’s the kind of lackey who would still support Trump after seeing him standing over a body in the middle of Fifth Avenue with a gun in his hand. When Trump announced that a horde of undocumented immigrants cost him the popular vote, Kobach didn’t miss the opportunity to broadcast another power lie: “I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of illegal votes cast exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Hillary Clinton.” Six months later, he was appointed vice chairman of Trump’s commission on election integrity.

And six months after that, the commission is dead. A statement released by the White House earlier this week cited “endless legal battles” as the main reason why Trump is shutting it down: “Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry.” Of course, the “substantial evidence of voter fraud” is still in Trump’s frenzied imagination. (By the way, if the proof of massive voter fraud is already available, wasn’t the commission sort of … redundant?)

Meanwhile, Kobach is busily insulting and misrepresenting the people who were rightly suspicious of the commission at the outset: “The critics were making a bizarre and, frankly, idiotic argument. A commission presenting evidence doesn’t do a Jedi mind-trick and make state legislators in some state suddenly pass a bill.”

That’s a great response to an argument nobody was making. Here’s the point Kobach doesn’t want to acknowledge: The commission never had any credibility. And Kobach certainly didn’t improve its reputation when he disgraced himself by lying about his “proof” of widespread (and potentially election-shifting) voter fraud in New Hampshire. While there was no reason to worry about Kobach pulling a Jedi mind-trick, it isn’t hard to understand the pernicious consequences of giving him a national platform to deceive Americans about voter fraud.

Finally, since we’re talking about idiotic arguments: If Kobach ever wants to be taken seriously again, he should apologize for endorsing Trump’s deranged, self-serving lie about “millions” of illegal votes in 2016. While I disagree with so much of what Kobach has done, debasing himself in front of the entire country by jumping into the black hole of Trump’s vanity was the nadir of his public life. When Trump told his most powerful power lie, Kobach was first in line to praise him for his honesty.

Contact Matt Johnson at (785) 295-1282 or @mattjj89 on Twitter.

 

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