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Member of Trump's Vote Fraud Panel Wanted to Exclude Democrats

A member of Trump's voter fraud panel argued that including Democrats, “mainstream Republicans” on the panel would "guarantee its failure," an email shows.
Image: Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky
Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky speaks during the first public meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in Washington on July 19, 2017.Andre Chung / for NBC News

A member of President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission argued that including Democrats, “mainstream Republicans” and certain academics on the panel would "guarantee its failure," an email disclosed late Tuesday shows.

The redacted email, sent on Feb. 22 and obtained by the Campaign Legal Center via a Freedom of Information Act Request, was forwarded to Attorney General Jeff Sessions by a Justice Department official. It was sent by a Heritage Foundation employee later revealed to be commission member Hans von Spakovsky, who expressed deep dissatisfaction with Vice President Mike Pence's plans for the panel.

Image: Manchester Voter Fraud Commission
Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, sits on the "Current Election Integrity Issues Affecting Public Confidence" panel, (as well as the Commission) during the second meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College on September 12, 2017 in Goffstown, New Hampshire.Kayana Szymczak / for NBC News

Von Spakovsky in his email argued that "there isn't a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud and issue constant public announcements criticizing the commission and what it is doing, making that it is engaged in voter suppression."

The decision to make the panel bipartisan "alone shows how little WHouse understands about this issue," von Spakovsky wrote.

In a statement, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said the employee who wrote the email is von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission.

“He brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to the discussion of voter fraud and holds strong views on the topic," Sarah Mills, a spokeswoman for the foundation, said in an email. "The views expressed in the email are his own.”

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of five Democrats on the commission, told NBC News that after seeing the email he thinks von Spakovsky should step down.

“It’s damaging to the commission,” Dunlap said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I took the vice president at his word when he said there are no preconceived notions."

"I think it mars the work of the committee,” he said. “It damages our ability to work together.”

Dunlap said he has no intention of resigning in protest, however.

"Quite the contrary, if I’m not there who’s there to ask the questions?" he said.

Von Spakovsky did not respond to a request for comment. The DOJ directed inquiries to the White House, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a news release, the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group in Washington, said the email adds “to the mounting evidence that the commission has no interest in true bipartisanship or an open discussion of how to solve the real problems in our elections.”

“This commission has no meaningful bipartisan credentials," said Trevor Potter, the fund's president, "and its purpose is based on false charges of voter fraud that have already been repeatedly disproven.”

Bob Bauer, who served as White House counsel under President Barack Obama and on a commission on election administration created by Obama, called on von Spakovsky to resign in light of the views expressed in his email.

"Von Spakovsky may now appreciate that his position on the Commission has become untenable and that he should resign," Bauer wrote in a post on his website. "It seems clear that someone so inflexibly committed to his position on voting fraud, and so contemptuous of opposing views, is a poor choice for membership on a fact-finding commission — even this one."

In a statement to The Huffington Post, von Spakovsky admitted he sent the email and said he was unaware that it had been was forwarded to the attorney general.

“I did send a private email in February to private individuals who were in the administration to express my personal concerns about the efficacy" of the commission, he said. “After my own participation as a member, I’m confident that all members of the commission are committed to uncovering the truth about election integrity.”