Government & Politics

A would-be Trump aide’s demands: Kobach wanted a jet on call, a future Cabinet post

Kris Kobach: ‘This one just wasn’t God’s will’

Kris Kobach thanks supporters after conceding to Democrat Laura Kelly in the Kansas governor’s race Tuesday.
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Kris Kobach thanks supporters after conceding to Democrat Laura Kelly in the Kansas governor’s race Tuesday.

Access to a government jet 24 hours a day. An office in the West Wing, plus guaranteed weekends off for family time. And an assurance of being made secretary of homeland security by November.

Those were among a list of 10 conditions that Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, has given to the White House if he is to become the administration’s “immigration czar,” a job President Donald Trump has been looking to create to coordinate immigration policy across government agencies. The list was described by three people familiar with it.

Kobach, who once served as an adviser to the hard-line immigration Sheriff Joe Arpaio and helped write an Arizona law requiring local officials to verify the citizenship of anyone they had “reasonable suspicion” to believe was an unauthorized immigrant, said he would need to be the main television spokesman for the Trump administration on immigration policy. And he said he wanted a guarantee that Cabinet secretaries whose portfolios relate to immigration would defer to him, with the president mediating disputes if need be.

The list was submitted by Kobach in recent weeks as he discussed his interest in the job. Other conditions included having a staff of seven reporting to him, “walk in” privileges to the Oval Office, a security detail if deemed necessary and the title of assistant to the president.

He would need access to the jet, he said, for weekly visits to the border and travel back to Kansas on the weekends. The existence of the list has become known among officials in the Trump administration, some of whom were taken aback by what they regard as its presumptuousness.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the list. Kobach did not respond to emails and text messages seeking comment.

Kobach, a graduate of Harvard, Oxford and Yale Law School, served as Kansas’ secretary of state from 2011 until January. While in that job, he was picked by Trump to lead a voter fraud commission after the president insisted that the 2016 election was marred by millions of illegal votes.

The commission was disbanded in 2018, with one expert on election law, Richard L. Hasen, describing its chairman as “a leader nationally in making irresponsible claims that voter fraud is a major problem in this country.”

The same year, Kobach, a former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, also ran for governor, losing to a Democrat, Laura Kelly. He lost a race for the House in 2004.

The list underscores the clout Kobach hopes to have in a job that would not require Senate confirmation, but could drive Trump’s immigration agenda. One of its main objectives was to minimize the influence of Cabinet officials, who have at times been targets of Trump’s ire, or have jostled for his ear.

After Kirstjen Nielsen, the former homeland security secretary, resigned in April, Trump met with Kobach about the possibility of succeeding her. Kobach, according to people familiar with the meeting, brought with him a detailed and plan to crack down on asylum-seekers entering the country. He told Trump that the only way for him to complete the mission was to be able to fly down to the border at a moment’s notice.

At the time, Trump was convinced that Kobach would have a hard time winning Senate confirmation for the position, and the two discussed the possible creation of an immigration czar. Trump has also been considering others for the role, including Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the former Virginia attorney general.

He has yet to make a decision.

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