by Greg Palast with Dennis J Bernstein
Donald Trump may have halted Kris Kobach’s so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on “Election Integrity” — but he hasn’t stopped its work. Far from it, he’s put its nefarious vote-stealing activities on steroids.
On January 3, shortly after Trump issued his Executive Order dissolving the Commission in the same way it was created, by the stroke of a pen, Kobach told Briebart that the Commission’s mission wasn’t over, rather it was being “handed off” to the Department of Homeland Security.
Far from being a victory for progressives, as most of the liberal lamestream media portrayed the Commission’s demise, this was a brilliant chess move by Kobach. Now Kobach hopes to operate his racist voter purging program away from the glaring spotlight of the Commission, under the special veil of secrecy afforded to the DHS. Worse still, the program is now backed by Homeland Security’s police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) powers.
In this episode of Flashpoints, Greg Palast and Dennis J. Bernstein discuss these developments.
TRANSCRIPT (First broadcast on January 9, 2018)
Dennis J. Bernstein: In Berkeley I’m Dennis Bernstein. You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. We’re delighted to welcome back Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, now a film, updated and released on Amazon. So congratulations Greg, welcome back to Flashpoints.
Greg Palast: Yes, in fact it’s free if you’ve got that Amazon Prime. It’s out this week. We updated it because unfortunately America has been updated with Trump. The film originally warned you that a guy named Kris Kobach of Kansas — if you can’t remember that name just think KKK — Trump’s Vote-Thief-in-Chief, I said he was going to be the mastermind behind Trump stealing the election, and he did it. So we updated the film to show you how he did it. And now he’s back in the news, and that’s why I’m happy to speak with you.
This week, or last week I should say, Trump disbanded his so-called Vote Fraud Commission, which was headed by Kris Kobach of Kansas, and officially known as the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity. It was disbanded because Kris Kobach of Kansas was being bombarded with lawsuits by the Brennan Center, by every civil rights organization you could think of with a lawyer, and even the single Democrat who was foolish enough to join his commission and found out he was being denied access to even such things as the meeting dates of the commission. So, they were operating in secret. Kris Kobach, forgetting that the Soviet Union no longer exists and has not moved to America, thought he could operate in secret. But now he has disbanded it because there’s so much public criticism. The President has issued an Executive Order, Trump just said the commission is disbanded…
Bernstein: But Trump said that, despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information. That’s why they had to give it to Homeland Security, to bring the investigators in.
Palast: Yes, well, two things… Number one: the Commission was formed and Trump was just tweeting and bleating that there is massive vote fraud. As you know… they’ve claimed that three million people voted twice. That’s Kris Kobach who created something called Interstate Crosscheck, a system to reveal these three million double voters, people voting illegally twice in the same election in two different states. He couldn’t produce any actual double voters, but he did have a list of three million, which I obtained, of these illegal voters. And it was just people with names like José Rodríguez and James Brown. Believe it or not, they found two people named James Brown voting in two different states. They had different middle names, but, hey, it doesn’t matter. As far as Republicans are concerned, that was a double voter. That’s the type of fraud and fraudulent voter that they were looking for.
And so yes, a lot of states refused — or appeared to refuse. By the way, most of those states were lying. Almost every Republican state turned over their voter rolls to Donald Trump and Kris Kobach. They lied and said that they didn’t, but enough states — including the state of California — simply refused to turn over their voter rolls for those guys to go tromping through to find more people named José Rodríguez that they could claim voted in another state. So you had resistance, you had lawsuits.
So what are they doing now? They’re putting it in Homeland Security. So they’ve closed it down. That you could look at as a victory. Because they recognized they can’t operate in public and get away with their shenanigans. So they put it in Homeland Security for two purposes. Number one is secrecy. They believe that by saying this is an anti-terrorism effort, that they somehow have the cloak of secrecy afforded them by working with Homeland Security. Well, you can’t just call a hunt for black Democrats a hunt for “terrorists” and make it secret. I’ve just been on the phone with Jesse Jackson and several lawyers who said you can call it whatever you want, but if it’s a racial purge of voters they still better make those records public. So, there’s still going to be a fight, that’s number one.
Number two — and it is dangerous — they’re going to try to use the power of Homeland Security. And I’m not guessing. Kris Kobach did say this on Fox, that they will use the police powers of Homeland Security to seize the voter rolls of California and New York and other States that are refusing to turn over their voter rolls so they can tromp through and find “double voters”. And Homeland Security is going to be saying that it’s looking for illegal alien voters — that’s the other big claim that they’ve made, that there are literally one to three million aliens, who swam the Rio Grande just so they could vote in our school board elections. It may be laughable, except it’s no joke when they start purging people whose crime is having a Hispanic last name.
Bernstein: You know Greg, we spent most of the show today talking about the Administration’s decision to abruptly end temporary protected status for some 200,000 Salvadorans [listen to the complete show here]. He did this for Haitians just a little bit ago. It seems it’s sort of part of a piece, in a way. It’s an attack on black and brown people, and it’s an attempt to cleanse black and brown people from the voter rolls — and some from the country.
Palast: Well, in fact, don’t discount this. Kris Kobach of Kansas — Mr. KKK as I mention in my film and my work for Rolling Stone — he not only is Secretary of the State of Kansas (and he’s running for governor of Kansas, by the way), he not only is heading Trump’s Commission, or I don’t know what his position now will be in Homeland Security, but he remains the lawyer for a group called FAIR. And FAIR’s founder says its entire purpose is to maintain a European America. And I have a suspicion he doesn’t mean a European-Haitian America, okay? This guy is a white supremacist… and I don’t throw that term around easily.
He is a declared white supremacist, Kris Kobach. And he is in charge of the politics behind these Trumpian racist deportation moves. And it’s of a piece with cleansing the voter rolls. Because, understand, when they talk about deporting people, if they find someone again named José Rodríguez, which there are hundreds of people named José Rodríguez on those voter rolls that they were attempting to purge — and did purge, by the way, in the last election. When they create these lists of illegal aliens and they start deporting aliens, they’re also going to be attacking the voting rights of anyone with a similar name.
So you can’t disconnect the attack on voter rolls from the attack on legitimate alien Americans who want to become citizens. They’re going after the ones who’ve become citizens already, or who’ve been citizens for generations. Let’s not forget that in New Mexico and California for a lot of Hispanics the border crossed them, it’s not that they crossed the border.
Bernstein: Talk a little bit about what you’re preparing for. We’re seeing this unfold now, we’re seeing this Commission being moved into Homeland Security. We’ve got the 2018 elections coming up. These are going to be highly contested. How are you making preparations? What are you going to do, Greg, to stop them from stealing these elections?
Palast: Well, number one, I’d better keep reporting the story because we’re not getting it on the mainstream media. They laugh at Kris Kobach and the claims of voter fraud. But what they’re not doing is investigating… It’s not a joke. They’re using this absurdity that millions of illegal alien voters, double voters, and others [as an excuse to purge legal voters.] And the double voters almost in all cases that they’ve identified are voters of color. So the first thing is exposure, which is very difficult to do in an America which believes that, as Hilary Clinton put it, we have the most wonderful electoral system in the world, which means she’s only been to Kazakhstan.
By the way, I just came back from Switzerland… where they do read my reports and my work is popular there. And they’re stunned. It’s so hard for them to get [their heads] around the idea that we don’t count all the votes or let everyone vote. This is in a nation, Switzerland, where everyone is required by law to vote. Like, they don’t even understand this idea that someone wouldn’t vote or wouldn’t get their vote counted. Or that you can get away with taking away someone’s vote by saying they don’t have the right ID or something like that. They’re absolutely stunned that this is still happening. And that’s true in other nations in Europe who are just stunned at the US system. So number one: it’s exposure.
Number two: political action. And we’ve seen Jesse Jackson and Rainbow PUSH are doing a national campaign which is starting with Interstate Crosscheck, Kris Kobach’s game saying that millions of people voted twice, just as a way to remove every guy named James Brown from the list; and every guy named Jesse Jackson, by the way, from the voter rolls as well.
And then there’s legal action. The great class action lawyer Jeanne Mirer in fact was just calling a moment to go to my office because she’s about to file open records requests on the states that are working with Kobach on his scheme to remove so-called double voters, demanding that they release their hit lists, release their racist purge lists. Because if they release the lists, and we go through them, our experts already know what are on those lists because we have about a third of the names. And, like I say, this is an attack on voters of color.
So there’s a political attack, a legal attack, a journalistic attack, meaning journalism’s job is exposure. Hard to do. It’s hard to get editors and producers in America to do any story about anything but America being a wonderful democracy. You’re the guy who is passing gas at the debutante ball of American democracy. It’s not done. So it’s a very difficult thing to accomplish.
So those are the three things; exposure, political action, and legal action. And obviously it would be nice to see legislative action as well, but that would require the Democrats.
Bernstein: Well the Democrats, yeah, I was going to say the Democrats. But they’ve been deadbeats on all this stuff, haven’t they? I mean, they have not been willing from Gore in 2000… They’re just cowards to take this on.
Palast: Well some of it is cowardice. In my investigations of what is politely called vote suppression, unfortunately, Democrats have taken part in this too. Not on the kind of industrial, computerized scale that Republicans have done. But you’d have a very different Democratic Party if every voter of color was allowed to vote and have their votes counted. A very different Democratic Party.
And I saw this particularly in New Mexico, where I saw brutal vote suppression where machines simply did not work in the pueblos. Machines simply did not work, and therefore recorded no votes — zero votes for President in certain precincts that were heavily Hispanic Democrat. And who is in charge or running the vote? Hispanic Democrats under the direction of Bill Richardson. You had kind of elite Hispanic Democrats fearful of the votes in primaries of poor Mexicanos.
Remember, vote theft is kind of class war by other means. So, therefore, you would expect it from Republicans, but you still have the problem of Democrats being involved and they don’t want to give up those tools either.
Bernstein: Well that’s a problem for all of us. You can learn a lot more if you have an opportunity to connect with some of the work of Greg Palast. You can go to gregpalast.com, find out all about his film, about the latest release. Find out all about a lot more in terms of how to defend your vote.
But this, it really isn’t taken seriously. And I’m not sure how to read the killing of the Kobach Commission. [It] may be a good thing, may be a bad thing, or it may be irrelevant because these folks are going to do this at the grassroots [level]. They’re going to steal the vote and it’s going to be continuing to target people of color because they don’t have the resources to fight back.
Palast: Well I think it does matter. Number one: it is a political victory. That is the Kobach Commission was roundly dismissed as a joke. It shouldn’t be a joke because these guys ain’t foolin’ around. You know, it’s not a circus act, these guys are serious. It is dangerous because there’s been so much crowing by the liberals and the MSDNC reporting, you would think that they’ve just saved the nation by driving Kris Kobach underground. But driving Kris Kobach into Homeland Security and his operation… into basically the Secret Service of the United States, now to use police powers and conducting operations in the dark, that’s extremely dangerous.
But, again, most of this activity happens at the state level. And, you know, most of the Flashpoints listeners are in California. There’s a lot of cleanup there and that’s in a one party, Democratic state. If you remember Alex Padilla oversaw a primary in June of 2016 in which nearly one million ballots were never counted, disqualified through cockamamie manipulation of the vote, forcing people to use provisional ballots or having their ballots disqualified because they used the wrong ballot.
It’s games that I saw in Alabama, games that I saw in Mississippi, and here we’re having this kind of José Crow operation in California. So it’s up to activists, it’s up to an informed public; Don’t depend on the parties to save your vote.
Bernstein: All right… I’m looking forward, Greg, as it comes a little bit closer to the elections that we strike up our Election Crimes Bulletin, because we know we’re going to need it. We’re going to need the great work that you’ve been doing for so many years, Greg. And we appreciate this ongoing collaboration. Again, people can check you out at gregpalast.com, the film is available, a great deal of information is available. And we thank you, Greg, for always making yourself available to our listeners and to the Flashpoints show.
Palast: Terrific. Thank you, Dennis.
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