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Kansas' Kobach Tries to Avoid Answering Questions Under Oath

Kobach has sparred repeatedly with voting and immigrant rights advocates

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    Kansas' Kobach Tries to Avoid Answering Questions Under Oath
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    FILE - President Donald Trump and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach pose for a photo after a meeting at Trump International Golf Club, Nov. 20, 2016, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey.

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is seeking to avoid answering questions under oath about two documents containing plans for changes to U.S. election law.

    Kobach, who is also vice chairman of Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, filed a notice late Monday saying he is appealing to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals an order to submit to a deposition by the American Civil Liberties Union in a voting rights case. The closed deposition is scheduled for Thursday.

    The ACLU told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Kobach's appeal of the deposition order to the 10th Circuit is "bizarre."

    Two federal judges in Kansas have each twice ruled the Kansas Republican misled the court about the contents of documents he was photographed taking into a November meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump as well as a separate draft amendment to the National Voter Registration Act. Kobach was holding the document at his side with the print facing out so photographs made it possible to read part of what was written on it.

    The court fined Kobach $1,000 and ordered him to testify about the documents.

    The photographs prompted the ACLU to seek to obtain the document and any related materials on his proposed changes to federal voting law. Kobach essentially told the court and the ACLU that he didn't have any such documents — the misrepresentation the court cited in imposing sanctions against him.

    His appeal to the 10th Circuit comes a week after U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson said Kobach has demonstrated a pattern of misleading the court about the facts and record in a voting rights case unfolding in Kansas.

    The ACLU's lawsuit challenges a Kansas voter registration law that requires people to submit citizenship documents such as a birth certificate, naturalization papers or U.S. passport. An email cited in the case shows Kobach wants to amend federal law to make clear such proof-of-citizenship requirements are permitted.

    In May, the court forced Kobach to turn over the documents to ACLU lawyers as part of the discovery process of gathering evidence. Now they are arguing whether the sealed documents should be made public.

    Kobach did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to his spokeswoman.

    But in a recent filing, Kobach noted that, after court-ordered redactions, the two documents in question are one page each and combined contain just six sentences.

    "There has been a tremendous amount of work done to keep out six sentences and that makes you wonder why," said Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas.

    Kobach has made representations to the public and the President, "suggesting noncitizen registration fraud is a serious, widespread problem while simultaneously endeavoring to withhold documents that tend to undercut those representations," the ACLU contended in a filing this month.

    "The degree to which he has fought over disclosure of these two documents is strange to me," Bonney said.

    In objecting to their public disclosure, Kobach has contended the documents are not relevant to the voting rights case. He argued in a court filing Friday that the government's interest in keeping the documents from being publicly disseminated outweigh the ACLU's "political agenda and financial interest in publishing them."

    Kobach also contended making the documents public would undermine his responsibilities on the presidential election commission, saying it would "hinder his ability to confidently advise the President."

    Robinson has not yet ruled on whether to unseal the two documents.

    Kobach has sparred repeatedly with voting and immigrant rights advocates. He has announced that he will run for Kansas governor in 2018.