— -- In opening remarks at the first meeting of the White House’s voter fraud commission, President Donald Trump repeated a suggestion that states that have been unwilling to hand over information on their voters have something to hide.
“If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they are worried about, and I asked the vice president, I asked the commission, what are they worried about?” the president asked rhetorically. "There's something, there always is."
Many of the states that refused to fully comply with the controversial commission’s request for a swath of information on voter profiles are barred by their state laws from doing so. Criticism of the commission centers around evidence of voter fraud being extremely rare and the belief that it was created to support Trump's unsubstantiated claims about occurrences during last year's election.
The president Wednesday emphasized the need to root out voter fraud, even as there continues to be no proof of widespread instances of voter fraud and the allegations have been discredited by multiple state election officials.
“Every time voter fraud occurs, it cancels out the vote of a lawful citizen and undermines democracy. We can't let that happen,” the president said. “Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting, whether by non-citizens or the deceased and any form of voter suppression or intimidation must be stopped.”
Trump has claimed that the only reason he lost the popular vote to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton is because "millions" voted illegally -- a stance from which the president has not backed down.
He didn't mention that specific claim in his remarks Wednesday but he did say that the issue is of great importance to him because, during the campaign, people would come up to him with concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities “in some cases, having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states," he said.
The president touted the commission as transparent and urged its members to approach their work without set conclusions.
“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it's an American issue,” Trump said. “This will be a very transparent process. It's going to be very open for everybody to see. We will approach this important task with a very open mind and with no conclusion it's already drawn. You will fairly and objectively follow the facts wherever they may lead. I look forward to the findings and recommendations your report will produce and I share your report.”
On Wednesday morning, the Democratic National Committee fired back at the president’s commission with a pursuit of their own.
The DNC announced the formation of the Commission to Protect American Democracy, which seeks to dismantle obstacles to voting access, rather than investigating voter fraud.
Michael Blake, a member of the DNC commission and vice chair of the DNC, said that their group aims “to make sure we have a Democratic response to demonstrate that we are serious about pushing back against the Trump administration.”
Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, the leader of the group, criticized the voter fraud commission as a “vehicle for voter suppression.”
Rep. Terry Sewell, D-Ala., the DNC commission's vice chair, said the issue is a personal one as the representative of Selma and a number of other Alabama cities central in the movement to improve voting rights for minorities.
With this in mind, she said that she and her colleagues “will make sure that the voices of the excluded are not always the voices of the voiceless.”