After scrapping a proposed executive order in his first week on the job, Donald Trump announced that he is putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of a commission to investigate "voter fraud." Pence has said he is honored to perform the task, but in a further sign of Republican disarray, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell says he will not fund such a commission.
On Fox and Friends, Mike Pence told host Brian Kilmeade that “it’ll be my honor” to lead an investigation into Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud — which are wholly baseless — but conspicuously skirted the question that Kilmeade actually asked (emphasis mine):
KILMEADE: You know you have got another job today. He put you in charge of the — investigating voter fraud, and you’re in charge of the task force. He believes it’s up to 4 million people who have voted fraudulently. Do you?
PENCE: The president and I talked about a week ago. And he announced it in that interview here on Fox with Bill O’Reilly that he’s going to set up a commission, and his commitment to really looking into the errors and flaws in our voter logs, the possibility of wide-scale voter fraud that’s taken place in the country. Look, at the very center of our democracy is the integrity of the vote — the one person, one vote principle. And it’ll be my honor to lead that commission on behalf of the president, and to look into that, and give the American people the facts.
So far, not a single Trump administration official, including Pence, has said on the record that they believe Trump’s assertion that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally. Yet they apparently stand ready to carry out this sham investigation simply to assuage Trump’s ego.
One major obstacle, though, is Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who told CNN this weekend that he does not believe Trump’s claims, and will not approve funds to investigate them:
TAPPER: Bill O’Reilly asked the president about this evidence-free claim that Hillary Clinton received 3 to 5 million illegal votes in the presidential election. Here’s how President Trump responded.
TRUMP (Clip): People have come out and said I’m right, you know that.
O’REILLY (Clip): I know, but you’ve got to have data to back that up.
TRUMP (Clip): Let me just tell you, when you see illegals, people that are not citizens, and they’re on the registration rolls — look, Bill, we can be babies, but you take a look at the registration, you have illegals, you have dead people, you have — it’s really a bad situation. It’s really bad.
TAPPER: Do you want to spend taxpayer money to hunt for these apparently nonexistent 3 to 5 million illegal votes?
MCCONNELL: Well, you know, this sort of thing is handled at the state level. And the Democrats always claim there is no election fraud at all. That is, of course, not true. Election fraud does occur. There is no evidence that it occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election.
And I don’t think we ought to spend any federal money investigating that. I think the states can take a look at this issue. Many of them have tried to tighten their voter rolls, tried to purge people who are dead and otherwise not eligible to vote. And I think we ought to leave that at the state level.
The rift between the Trump administration and Republican leadership over pursuing this lie is yet another indication of the chaos that has quickly become Trump’s governing hallmark, as well as Trump’s own fraudulence. Listen to what Trump said while proposing this commission to investigate his own lie (emphasis mine):
O’REILLY: So you think you’re gonna be proven correct in that statement?
TRUMP: Well, I think I already have. A lot of people have come out and said that I am correct.
O’REILLY: But the data has to show that 3 million illegals voted.
TRUMP: Forget that. Forget all of that. Just take a look at the registration, and we’re gonna do it, and I’m gonna set up a commission, to be headed by Vice President Mike Pence, and we’re gonna look at it very, very carefully.
O’REILLY: Well, that’s good. Let’s get to the bottom of this.
This is as blatant an admission as one is likely to find that Trump not only does not believe his own lies, but that he expects the American taxpayers to fund a sham vindication of it, one which could very well lead to massive voter suppression.
It is cold comfort that the only thing currently standing in the way of this troubling investigation is the stiffness of Mitch McConnell’s spine. Because although he resists the idea now, Republican leaders have shown a remarkable willingness to go along with Trump when push comes to shove.