On Tuesday, American Oversight sued the Trump administration for failing to release coronavirus-related emails sent by two dozen top officials. The lawsuit, filed against the Departments of the Treasury, State, and Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), seeks to compel the release of emails sent by senior Trump appointees including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In early March, American Oversight filed a suite of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with those agencies, seeking senior officials’ sent emails containing key terms — such as “COVID-19,” “N95,” and “quarantine” — related to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to the cabinet secretaries, the FOIA requests identified several other top Trump officials whose emails should be released to the public, including Dr. Deborah Birx, who is currently coordinating the White House coronavirus task force, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich, who was recently assigned to oversee the troubled small business stimulus loan program. The agencies failed to release the requested emails as required by law, leading this week’s lawsuit.
The Trump administration’s mismanaged handling of the pandemic has put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk and has lagged behind the responses of other developed nations, such as Germany, Taiwan, Iceland, and South Korea. Today’s lawsuit aims to shed light on how the administration has handled this public health emergency.
“While the president and White House officials take unearned victory laps and try to reopen the country, the administration is anticipating a near doubling of the daily coronavirus death toll by June,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “We need more transparency and accountability to get to the bottom of this historic failure of leadership.”
American Oversight has filed more than 400 public records requests with federal and state government agencies to investigate the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. This is the fourth lawsuit filed by American Oversight as part of that effort. More information on our investigation, the records we’ve received, and a comprehensive list of our coronavirus-related public records requests are available here.
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