NASHVILLE — President Donald Trump went on the offense Saturday with a tweet castigating election officials in Tennessee and other states refusing to comply with his Election Integrity Commission's request for voters' personal information, including partial Social Security numbers.
"Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL," the angry president tweeted Saturday. "What are they trying to hide?"
The Trump blast comes as Republican and Democratic election chiefs in some two dozen states, including Tennessee Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett, say they won't turn over sensitive information requested by the commission's controversial vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Vice President Mike Pence is chairman of the commission.
In a statement Friday, Hargett said Tennessee law won't let him release the information being sought.
"Although I appreciate the commission's mission to address election-related issues, like voter fraud, Tennessee state law does not allow my office to release the voter information requested to the federal commission," Hargett said.
Election chiefs in some two dozen states, including Republican Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, say they won't turn over sensitive information requested by commission vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Vice President Mike Pence is chairman of the commission.
Asked about Trump's criticism, Hargett told the Times Free Press via email that "in Tennessee we take voter fraud seriously, and we work with law enforcement officials to prosecute violators."
A former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Hargett added that Trump's commission "has well-respected members of both parties. Many of the members are not only colleagues, but also friends and I appreciate their service."
Hargett already had said Friday that Tennessee law won't let him release the information being sought.
Kobach's letter to officials in all 50 states seeks voters' full names, addresses, dates of birth, political party affiliation, voting history, criminal background information and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
The letter says documents submitted to the commission "will also be made available to the public."
Ghassemi said Friday that Tennessee law "provides that certain voter information, including voter history, is available to a person who certifies, under penalty of being charged with a crime, that the list will be used for a political purpose."
While political parties and candidates can and do purchase such information, Ghassemi noted that "even when this information is requested for a political purpose, it does not include a social security number, in whole or in part."
Kobach's letter also asks states to respond to a list of questions about voting in their states, inquiring about "law, policies or other issues hinder your ability to ensure the integrity of elections you administer."
Trump created the commission to investigate alleged acts of voter fraud after he made unsubstantiated charges that up to 5 million undocumented immigrants voted illegally in the 2016 election.
In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp has said he will provide the commission with publicly available voter information but not information private under state law such as driver's license or Social Security numbers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
A number of Democrats as well as civil and voting rights groups are questioning the motivations of both Trump and Kobach.
New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice has described Kobach as an "architect of restrictive voting and immigration laws around the country" and noted Kobach "cheered" unsubstantiated claims by Trump that "millions" of people illegally voted in last November's presidential election.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said in a statement that "the only fraud that is occurring is the fraudulent commission being led by Vice President Pence and Sec. Kobach."
Mancini charged Kobach "has a disgusting history of perpetuating the myth of voter fraud as an excuse to purge legitimate voters from the rolls or to prevent them from registering in Kansas."
Updated July 1 at 7:10 p.m. with a statement from Tennessee Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett.