Kris Kobach, Trump’s Top Vote Suppressor, Wins Kansas Primary

Kris Kobach is the frontrunner to become the next governor of Kansas after winning the Republican primary. And even though Kobach’s vote suppression efforts have faced legal setbacks, Trump’s stacking of the Supreme Court may soon hand him another victory, says investigative journalist Greg Palast

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Story Transcript

AARON MATE: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Mate.

One week after an election that was too close to call, the Kansas Republican gubernatorial race has been decided. Secretary of State Kris Kobach has emerged as the winner, beating out his superior, the sitting governor Jeff Colyer. Kobach is notorious for advocating and orchestrating the nation’s harshest voter suppression and anti-immigrant policies. This helps earn him an endorsement from President Trump, whom Kobach says gets credit for his victory.

KRIS KOBACH: I think it had a huge impact. There’s no question. Certainly on Election Day voting we did very well, and that’s part of the reason why when the provisional ballots were counted they went in our favor. And I think the President’s endorsement affected a lot of people’s decisions on that day, Election Day, because of course he endorsed me the day before. So no doubt it had a huge impact.

AARON MATE: Joining me is someone who has reported on Kris Kobach extensively, and who in fact calls Kobach the Al Capone of vote rigging. Greg Palast is an award-winning investigative journalist, author of books including The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, which he also turned into a film of the same name, which includes a very notorious scene where Greg Palast confronts Kris Kobach. But before we get to that, Greg Palast, welcome to The Real News. Tell us about this man, who you’ve been covering for a long time.

GREG PALAST: Kris Kobach of Kansas, indeed the Al Capone of vote rigging. And let me get to specifics. Interstate crosscheck. That’s something that he operates for Republican Party secretaries of state in 27 states. And what it is is a system of hunting down people who voted twice in two different states. According to Kobach and his patron Donald Trump, three million people voted twice in the last election; three million people voted twice in 2008. That’s why Obama supposedly won. All these millions of people willing to go to jail for five years. That’s the penalty for voting a second time in another state.

Now, how does he know that these people voted twice in other states? Turns out I’m the only journalist who actually got my hands on most of the lists of the three million double voters. It’s actually a list of 7.2 million names of people with common names. Jose Garcia’s accused of voting in 26 states. Now, in one state it’s Jose Tomas Garcia. In other states it’s Jose Manuel Garcia. But they say it’s the same voter. And I know you’re going to say Jose Garcia is a common name. Not for a Republican.

The trick here is that they’re just using first and last names, common names. In the United States of America, 85 of the 100 most common surnames in the United States are minority names. David Garcia, David Kim, John Black, Jesse Jackson. These are common names. And that’s the trick that they’re playing there.

That’s just one of his tricks. The other is called the alien voter trick. He has claimed, Kris Kobach, as has Donald Trump, that one million Mexicans swam the Rio Grande to VOTE for Hillary Clinton. Now, this would just be a joke, and it’s been dismissed by the mainstream press. Don’t dismiss it, because it’s had real effects. States are purging people on the suspicion that they aren’t Americans. How do they know that they’re suspicious? They have names like Jose Garcia; a guy named Jose Garcia was deported. He must have, you know, marched back across the border just to vote for Hillary.

It wouldn’t be a problem, except they’re actually removing people from the voter rolls as we speak. The crosscheck program removed 1.1 million voters before the 2016 election. We don’t know how many so-called aliens are being removed, but we do know that Kobach stopped 36,000 Americans from voting in the 2016 election by saying that they didn’t prove that they were citizens. When it went to federal court, he couldn’t name a single person of the 36,000, not one, was known to be or proven to be an alien. But he did stop voting by two Air Force officers and a whole lot of students at the University of Kansas. This is- and this, these are just two of the games he’s playing. That ain’t all.

AARON MATE: Well, before we go to more of those games, Greg, let’s go to a clip from The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, your film, because you not only obtained the list of names targeted by Kobach’s crosscheck program, you went to Kobach himself and confronted him with that list.

GREG PALAST (FILM): What is the point of sending a card to James Evans Johnson to prove that he is not James P. Johnson? What’s the point of sending him a card?

KRIS KOBACH (FILM): That should not be an individual who gets, who is deemed a match.

GREG PALAST (FILM): Excuse me, but you say ignore the matches. You tell people to go-. You tell the states, this is your, this is you, right? Kansas Secretary of State. It says Kansas Secretary of State. This is you. How can you have these as the same voter? Potentially the same voter?

KRIS KOBACH (FILM): Our system will not yield that result.

GREG PALAST (FILM): This is from your system.

But his system did target Johnson. All these are his matches.

This is the list you gave Virginia. And on the basis of this list, you know that Virginia removed 41,000 voters based on the list you gave them?

KRIS KOBACH (FILM): That is false.

GREG PALAST (FILM): But he did cancel the registrations of these voters. Why lie?

You have said that there is a massive problem with double voters. You’ve given out this list.

KRIS KOBACH (FILM): These are not double voters.

GREG PALAST (FILM): This is the list. You say it’s potential double voters.

GREG PALAST (FILM): All his own propaganda says potential duplicate voters, double voters, double votes. It’s his own words. These documents crosscheck with his wardrobe.

KRIS KOBACH (FILM): You are a fool. Now I’m wasting my time.

GREG PALAST (FILM): Why all the bullshit and secrecy about crosscheck? Kobach knows crosscheck’s just a con. Based on the Virginia data, they’re going to knock out a million voters, and steal the election. If crosscheck’s legit, why hide the list? Why the lies?

AARON MATE: That’s a scene from the movie The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. So, Greg Palast, in the clip there you call Kobach a liar. But just how big of a lie was this, that you say he was telling you?

GREG PALAST: Well, there’s one thing where he was both prevaricating- I mean, there’s a lot of mendacity in everything he says. But it was also some some terrible truth, which is his list- which he does sell as a list of people voting twice, and that’s what he and Trump are claiming- in fact, legally, its status is that he’s sending these lists to other states as notice that people have moved. Now, they haven’t moved. I talked to these voters.

In fact, one, for example, on his list, Donald Alexander Webster of Dayton, Ohio- in the swing state- was supposed to be the same voter as Donald Eugene Webster of Virginia. Now, that guy’s not a double voter. I met him in Dayton. Here’s what Kobach is now saying. Well, they’re not really double voters, they’re people who’ve moved. Well, no, Donald Alexander Webster did not move to Virginia and change his middle name and add Junior to it. He’s still in Dayton.

Why does that matter? Because the Supreme Court of the United States on June 26 of this year said it’s OK to remove these people in Ohio and in Kansas and in Virginia, and in 20 other states, if they get a postcard and they don’t return it, because they’ve been Kobach’s list. You only get the postcard if you’ve been on Kobach’s list. So all the David Cantons, very common, common Korean name; Jose Garcias, Jesse Jacksons get these cards. If they don’t return them- about 80 percent of folks just think it’s junk mail, throw it away- they lose their vote. This is huge. I mean, huge. And when I said 1.1 million people removed from the voter rolls, according to Ohio, they’re removing half a million voters. That’s one state. One swing state. This is gigantic.

In fact, you see the effect despite all the voter drives in the United States, despite kids marching out of Parkland to register youth. Despite a massive influx, for example, into Florida from Puerto Rico. You see total Democratic voters, the total number Democratic voters, plummeting. Actually two million voters altogether have been wiped off the voter rolls next. So imagine, the total number of registered voters has actually declined since the 2016 election, which would be impossible without these mass purges coordinated by Kris Kobach.

AARON MATE: So Greg, you mentioned Kobach having difficulty proving the legitimacy of his crosscheck program in court. And he also had court troubles with his other signature achievement, which was a so-called proof of citizenship law, where in order to register to vote one had to produce proof of citizenship. That went to court, to District Court in Kansas. During that trial he was reprimanded for contempt of court. And then not only was his law overturned, he was then ordered to take about six hours of legal classes by the judge.

GREG PALAST: Yeah, well, we’re all, while we’re all chuckling about it, he’s going to have the last laugh. That was a district federal judge appointed by George Bush, but obviously a judge who knows the law. It’s going to go to the United States Supreme Court with Mr. Kavanaugh on that court. And I have little doubt that that Kris Kobach is going to prevail, with the right to- with the right to demand that you prove you’re a citizen. Now a lot of people say, oh, well that’s OK. I mean, why shouldn’t we prove we’re a citizen? The answer is we’re not red China. We don’t have citizenship cards. Sorry, your driver’s license, your Social Security number, those are all held by legal aliens in America, as well. You need a passport or an original birth certificate.

And what they found from the evil experiment of this law in Kansas, what they found was that poor people, believe it or not, don’t have passports. By the way, military service, you could be in- as we know, we had two voters who were officers in the Air Force. Sorry, that doesn’t prove you’re an American citizen. We do have resident aliens in the Air Force. And a lot of students simply couldn’t find or get a hold of their original birth certificate. What this becomes is a way to whiten the polls. It becomes a way to make it richer, older, whiter, the voter rolls. And that’s what’s going to make the difference, and did make a difference.

I’m telling you, in the latest version of my film and the update, we’ve done the math. Donald Trump would not be president, except for crosscheck and the other Kobach vote suppression tricks. It’s that cold.

AARON MATE: So it not only had an impact in Ohio, but also other critical states like Michigan and Wisconsin?

GREG PALAST: Yes. Actually, I went to Michigan after the election and met with Kobach’s henchmen, the operatives in the office of the secretary of state. And I was pretending that I thought crosscheck’s a wonderful program. They said, oh, you know, they targeted, they targeted 300,000 voters in Michigan, and they removed, we estimate, about 50,000. Trump won, supposedly in Michigan, by 10,700 votes. But with their, what the state itself called its aggressive use of crosscheck, basically he won because they did not allow tens of thousands of folks to vote for Hillary.

We also had another trick that Kobach is very good at. Machines break down. And instead of saying, OK, let’s hand-count the ballots; instead of saying, oh, we’re not going to, we’re not going count votes from machines that can’t read these ballots- that’s they did in Michigan. Let me, let me see if I could say that in a clearer way. In Michigan one of the other tricks that they pulled, which Kobach also quarterbacks, is simply not counting votes where there’s been a machine breakdown. In Michigan they use paper ballots, but machine robot readers. Well, if the robot can’t read your ballot, that doesn’t mean that you haven’t cast a good ballot. In Michigan there were- ready?- 75,355 ballots that were cast and never counted. And those are exclusively in Detroit and Flint, Michigan. Black cities. You count those ballots, Hillary won.

In Wisconsin we had a very similar situation. Pennsylvania. Just those three states alone. And it looks like some of the games also turned over North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa, and a couple of other states. You know, without the trickery, Trump wouldn’t be president. This is why this stuff is serious and why Kobach is a dangerous man, despite a judge saying, you know, he’s a clown in a courtroom. But he is one dangerous clown to American democracy.

AARON MATE: And quite possibly the next governor of Kansas. Greg Palast, investigative journalist, author of the book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and director of the film of the same name. Thanks very much.

GREG PALAST: You’re very welcome.

AARON MATE: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.