Former Trump Advisor Not Reappointed Over Threats Of Backlash

An advisor who previously worked for former President Donald Trump was not reappointed to an elections advisory board by a federal agency after a liberal group warned of public criticism, according to a new report.

The news comes from emails obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation, which reported on the story on April 11. The situation involves attorney Cleta Mitchell, who now serves at the Conservative Partnership Institute as a senior legal fellow.

Mitchell was appointed to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Board of Advisors in November 2021. However, any potential efforts for her to continue her service beyond the two-year term she earned was thwarted by John Bonifaz, president of Free Speech for People.

The head of the supposedly nonpartisan group reportedly spent months trying to convince the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) to remove Mitchell from her position. Then he threatened that he would spearhead a “public campaign” blasting the agency if the attorney was reappointed after her term of two years came to an end.

According to internal emails and public records requests, Bonifaz wrote on Nov. 8, 2023, to David Ganz, general counsel for the USCCR. The Free Speech for People president stated that the message was “a courtesy” to inform Ganz that his team would “launch a public campaign criticizing the USCCR” for keeping Mitchell in her position.

The smear campaign, he said, would not be necessary if the civil rights group “decided not to reappoint Cleta Mitchell.” He also provided a deadline of alerting Bonifaz if this is what the group decided by Nov. 29, 2023, at 5 p.m. He added his desire to “let you know” ahead of time about the pending backlash “so you’re not surprised” if the “Commission receive[d] media calls.”

The next day, however, Free Speech for People did not launch the smear campaign on account of Mitchell’s lack of reappointment. In an Oct. 5 email, Ganz explained that Mitchell could be removed after the end of her two-year term even though she could not be kicked out while serving during that time.

The EAC’s mission is to facilitate election administration in various capacities such as operating grant programs and providing guidelines for voluntary voting systems. It includes 35 members on its board of advisors, which oversees draft guidance and makes recommendations to commissioners of the EAC.

Following her appointment to the advisory board, Mitchell came under fire for accusations that she had colluded with former president Trump to swing the 2020 presidential election in his favor. The accusations were connected to the presumptive GOP nominee’s infamous call to Georgia’s secretary of state about concerns of fraud in the election.

Meanwhile, Mitchell slammed the group for its smear threats, noting in a post on X: “Don’t you love that ‘Free Speech for People’ worked relentlessly to attack me because they don’t like my views… so maybe the organization should change its name to ‘Free Speech Only for People We Agree With.’”

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