A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Monday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach would not be advising the agency as it investigates voter fraud despite his claims that he would be involved.
President Donald Trump officially disbanded his voter fraud commission last week in the face of a flood of lawsuits and resistance from states to a massive data request sent out by Kobach, the commission’s vice chair, in June.
The administration said the Department of Homeland Security would study the issue instead of the commission.
Kobach, a candidate for governor, told The Star last week that he would “be working closely with DHS and the White House as the investigation moves forward.” He said that the agency would be looking for non-citizens on the voter rolls, an issue that Kobach has heavily promoted during his seven years as Kansas secretary of state.
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However, a spokesman for DHS contradicted Kobach’s characterization of his role in that agency’s work.
“Mr. Kobach is not advising DHS in a formal or informal manner,” said Tyler Q. Houlton, a spokesman for DHS. “Of course, if an issue were to arise, we would work with him in his official capacity as the Kansas secretary of state as we do with any secretary of state and other state and local officials.”
Kobach maintained in a phone call Monday evening that he had been given assurances by the White House that he would remain involved in the process.
“I can tell you this, I was informed by the White House when the president made his final decision that they wanted me to be working closely with the president and this team. ... And that team is both the White House and DHS,” Kobach said.
He blamed the confusion with DHS on the fact that he would no longer be serving in a formal role.
“What hasn’t been fleshed out is that capacity,” he said. “I will not take on a formal adviser role.”
Former state Rep. Mark Hutton, a Wichita Republican competing for the GOP nomination for governor, criticized Kobach for exaggerating his role with the Trump administration.
“In typical Kobach fashion, his latest political stunt fell apart and he has been caught inflating his role in the name of self-promotion,” Hutton said in an email Monday. “Kansas needs a governor focused on solving our real problems at home, not on falsely promoting themselves in Washington, D.C., on the Kansas taxpayer dime.”
Kobach’s selection as vice chair for the now-disbanded commission rankled voting rights advocates based on his history of advocating for tougher restrictions on voting.
Documents unsealed last year as part of a federal lawsuit revealed that Kobach advised Trump shortly after his election on proposed changes to the National Voter Registration Act.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway has cited Kobach as the source behind the president’s unsupported claim that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in 2016.