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Kris Kobach fined for misleading court and refusing to produce previously exposed Trump memo

 (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been fined $1,000 for misleading a federal court in an effort to keep two documents private.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last year against Kobach arguing that his state's proof of citizenship law violates the National Voter Registration Act. ACLU lawyers asked Kobach to produce two documents they said pertained to the case.

One of those documents was a draft of a proposed amendment to the National Voter Registration Act. The second was a document that had been photographed and widely shared in late November after Kobach met with then-President-elect Donald Trump. The power of a zoom lens exposed certain details of his proposal to Trump to deport potential terrorists.

 (Close-up of memo.)
(Close-up of memo.)

In a 24-page ruling made public Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge James O'Hara wrote that Kobach did not accurately represent the contents of the documents when he argued against producing them.

"Defendant refused to produce these documents, asserting that they are beyond the scope of reopened discovery, do not seek relevant information, and are protected by the attorney-client, deliberative-process, and executive privileges," the judge wrote.

The court took Kobach at his word, O'Hara wrote, but upon review of the documents – produced under a court order – found that they did relate to the voting rights case. 

The judge wrote that while the court could not say that Kobach "flat-out lied," the "defendant’s statements can be construed as wordplay meant to present a materially inaccurate picture of the documents."

For now, the documents will remain classified, as Kobach designated them. But, O'Hara wrote, that status could change. 

Trump tapped Kobach last month to serve as vice chairman of a presidential commission that would oversee a voter fraud investigation.

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