The senior GOP Senator in Kansas has announced he will back Kris Kobach if President Donald Trump nominates the Ivy League lawyer to run the Department of Homeland Security.

Sen. Pat Roberts’ conditional endorsement is important because it defangs back-room opposition to a Kobach nomination by the establishment wing of the Kansas GOP. Roberts’ statement may also mute potential opposition from the establishment GOP Senators in Washington, D.C., who do not like Kobach’s long-standing support for Trump’s pro-American agenda.

“I have Kris Kobach in the past and I have supported every one of Trump’s nominees … ultimately this will be the President’s decision,” Roberts said a tweeted statement.

The muting of home state opposition to Kobach is important, partly because Roberts is retiring in 2020 and the Democrats are expected to make an aggressive and well-funded run for the Senate seat. Roberts’ conditional endorsement of Kobach will help sooth the sharp divides between the state party’s establishment and populist camps before the 2020 elections.

The statement in support of Kobach came quickly after the Kansas City Star reported that Roberts had urged opposition to a Kobach nomination. The newspaper reported April 9:

One of the GOP senators from Kris Kobach’s home state said Tuesday that the Senate would not be able to confirm the Kansas Republican if President Donald Trump taps him for a cabinet post.

“Don’t go there. We can’t confirm him,” Roberts whispered to The Kansas City Star when asked about Kobach Tuesday on his way into a Senate vote.

“I never said that to you,” Roberts added, despite the fact that another reporter was present and The Star had not agreed to an off record conversation.

Via tweet, Roberts subsequently explained his comment as a warning of determined opposition from Democrats. “The make-up of the Senate is extremely difficult for any nominee to be confirmed and it is only going to get worse. This body has six Democrats currently running for President who wish to obstruct the President’s agenda at all costs.”

Pro-migration Democrats are expected to strongly oppose Kobach precisely because he combines a commitment to Trump’s pro-American agenda, the competence to run the huge DHS bureaucracy, and the Ivy League credentials to sway public opinion.

Kobach graduated at the top of his class at Harvard University in 1988, then went on to earn his doctorate in political science at the University of Oxford in 1992. Kobach attended Yale University, where he earned his law degree in 1995 before joining former Attorney General John Ashcroft in the Justice Department in 2001.

While at the Justice Department, Kobach was the architect for the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which has allowed officials to track the arrival and departure of foreign visitors who may be national security threats.

After his tenure at the Justice Department, Kobach continued teaching immigration law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School.

Kobach lives in Kansas with his family of five daughters and wife, Heather.

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