A federal magistrate judge has ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to disclose documents outlining a strategic plan he presented to then-President-elect Donald Trump in November, a decision that could have ramifications from Topeka to Washington. Kobach, who served on Trump’s transition team, was photographed in November holding a stack of papers labeled as a strategic plan for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That plan, as revealed by the photograph, included the recommendations that the U.S. block all refugees from Syria and engage in “extreme vetting” of immigrants from countries considered high-risk. It also contained a reference to voter rolls, which was partially obscured by Kobach’s hand in the photograph. The American Civil Liberties Union sought the documents’ disclosure as part of an ongoing lawsuit over a Kansas law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register to vote. The ACLU argued that if Kobach lobbied Trump on changes to the National Voter Registration Act, commonly called the motor voter law, then the documents may contain material relevant to the case.
Judge James O’Hara in Kansas City, Kan., ordered Kobach to share the documents Monday after privately reviewing them earlier in the month. The judge will allow Kobach to redact portions of the documents unrelated to the case, but he wholly rejected Kobach’s argument that the papers were protected by Trump’s executive privilege. He also questioned whether Kobach had met his duty of candor as an attorney in his efforts to prevent the ACLU from reviewing the papers.
O’Hara said that “even adopting defendant’s view that the executive privilege may be asserted by a president over communications made before he takes office, defendant doesn’t address the fact that now-President Trump conspicuously has not asserted the privilege over the photographed document.”
The White House and the U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately comment on the judge’s order.