Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office has shared documents from a November meeting with President Donald Trump to the American Civil Liberties Union, but the legal wrangling over the papers is likely to continue after Kobach’s office marked the papers as confidential.
Kobach met with Trump in November and was photographed carrying a strategic plan for the Department of Homeland Security. The photograph revealed that the documents contained a reference to voting rolls, and the ACLU has sought access to them as part of an ongoing voting rights case.
A federal judge ordered Kobach to hand over the documents by Friday. Kobach’s spokeswoman, Samantha Poetter, said in an email around 5:30 p.m. Friday that the secretary of state’s office had sent the documents to the ACLU.
Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, confirmed that the organization had received the documents that evening, but said Kobach’s office “erroneously stamped them as confidential documents that cannot be disclosed beyond the parties.”
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Ho said the documents are not confidential under the court’s order, and that the ACLU will be seeking to have the confidential designation removed. The designation affects the ACLU’s ability to disclose the contents to news organizations and the broader public.
On Thursday, Trump named Kobach vice chairman of a commission that will study voter fraud. Kobach’s appointment outraged civil rights groups, who warned that he will exaggerate the prevalence of voter fraud and push for more restrictive policies nationwide. Kobach’s appointment to the commission has sparked interest in the contents of the documents from voting rights advocates nationwide.
Ho said the ACLU can’t share the documents until the confidentiality issue “is sorted out.”
Poetter said earlier in the day: “In civil litigation our responsibility is to answer to the court, not the press.”
Under U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson’s order, Kobach was required to provide the ACLU with the documents from his meeting with Trump and a proposed amendment to a federal voting law that he has circulated within his office.
The ACLU has argued that if Kobach lobbied Trump on changes to federal voting law, then his proposals would be relevant to the organization’s lawsuit against a Kansas law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as birth certificate or passport, when they register to vote.
Kobach had argued that the documents were protected by Trump’s executive privilege, an argument the court rejected. Kobach said Thursday that the documents “aren’t nearly as exciting as all of the briefing on them suggests.”