Health Care Lawsuit: Fighting for Transparency

American Oversight files Motion Opposing Efforts by Trump Administration and Congress to Block Release of Obamacare Repeal Emails

American Oversight is taking on both the Trump administration and Congress in our fight to bring transparency to the health care reform process – and on Tuesday we filed a new brief in our lawsuit arguing that the public has a clear right to see the records of the Obamacare repeal negotiations between Capitol Hill and the administration.

In Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cases, we’re typically up against the administration arguing that it shouldn’t have to release information to the public. That’s happening here, too, but in this case we’re also facing a separate challenge from Congress making its own arguments about why certain health care related emails should be hidden from public view.

More troubling – in fighting to conceal these health care documents, both the Trump administration and Congress have made sweeping, ill-conceived arguments that could severely limit government transparency across the board and undermine the Freedom of Information Act.

Statement from Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight.

“With the health care of millions of Americans at stake, the public has a right to know what our leaders were really saying to each other about health care reform. It is deeply disappointing that Congress and the Trump administration are so desperate to keep their Obamacare repeal negotiations secret that they’re willing to roll back fundamental transparency protections.”

Overview:

On May 25, 2017, a federal judge ordered the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to release records of their communications with Congress regarding health care reform legislation.

American Oversight had previously sued the two agencies for failing to respond to FOIA requests for the records. Lies are a form of corruption, and we wanted to find out if the public talking points on health care lined up with the private negotiations happening behind closed doors.

The administration complied with the court order, but it blacked out every single substantive exchange, including emails between OMB Director Mulvaney and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Those documents can be found here.

The Trump administration is arguing that it is allowed to redact the contents of its emails with Congress under FOIA exemption (b)(5) which permits agencies to withhold internal agency deliberations, which some courts have extended to communications with “outside consultants.”

This argument is problematic for a number of reasons:

  • First, the exemption the agencies rely on protects “inter-agency or intra-agency” communications but, under the FOIA statute, Congress is not an “agency.”
  • Second, Congress cannot be a “consultant” for the executive branch, particularly where, as in 2017 surrounding health care, its interests diverge from the agencies. Agencies can hire consultants, but those consultants operate as de facto agency employees. By no stretch of the imagination could Congress be said to fill that role here.
  • Third, the so-called “common interest” privilege has never been applied to, and does not apply to, agency deliberations, much less negotiations between independent branches of government.
  • Fourth, treating Congress – a separate, co-equal branch of government – as a consultant distorts our system of constitutional government. James Madison would roll over in his grave if he heard the government’s position.
  • Finally, the ramifications of endorsing this argument would be dire and unprecedented, potentially sweeping huge swaths of material into obscurity, harming transparency, and undermining accountable government. The government’s arguments could apply not just to Congress but also to Exxon Mobil and the Chamber of Commerce.

But that’s not the only argument we’re up against. Congress filed a separate motion to intervene in this lawsuit, arguing that four specific email chains are “congressional records” rather than “agency records” and should not be subject to FOIA.

Congress bases its argument on the fact that some messages within these chains include footers – form text appended to a signature block – declaring that those emails should be considered congressional records.

Congress exempted itself from FOIA, but there has never been a case that endorses this approach or one that involves such routine, ad hoc, back-and-forth communications between the independent branches of government. If Congress wins this argument, we can expect congressional staffers to use this kind of footer language all the time as a quick way to avoid public scrutiny, and it could cover a wide range of agency documents even where the agency is performing ordinary agency functions, not just assisting Congress.

American Oversight’s lawyers have marshaled the law and logic to fight these claims. Both are on our side. But ultimately, as we face off against two branches of government, the responsibility for protecting the FOIA statute and the constitutional separation of powers lies in the third. We are hopeful that the court will come down in our favor.

American Oversight’s brief can be viewed and downloaded here.

A more detailed explanation of the case and the issues involved can be found below.

I. Background:

The case involves FOIA requests we filed earlier this year asking for communications between HHS or OMB and Congress over health care reform. Our theory was that the behind-the-scenes dialogue wouldn’t match the talking points congressional and administration officials were spinning to the public, and we wanted to expose that. We also had a legal rationale behind what we did: under FOIA, agencies like HHS and OMB generally can’t withhold communications they have with people outside the executive branch. Agencies can have private internal conversations but they lose the cone of protection when they engage outsiders. It’s a principle that, among other things, allows the public to see what outside lobbyists and influencers are saying to our public officials.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the administration took extraordinary steps to block our efforts. While the agencies were forced to comply with a court order requiring them to turn over documents by early September, the thousands of pages they produced were covered in big, black redaction boxes. The documents confirmed our gut instinct that the administration was having significant discussions over email with its friends in Congress, but the redactions obscured every single substantive exchange (except for Paul Ryan’s emojis).

The redactions flew in the fact of the principle that the agencies’ external communications generally can’t be redacted under the FOIA. And as laid out below, the redactions also represent an incursion against the constitutional separation of powers, seeking to create a special exception for the Framers’ design when one party controls both Congress and the White House.

But before we get there, we have to introduce another, unexpected adversary. Despite the aggressive redactions on the documents, it turns out Congress didn’t think the administration went far enough. Four email chains among the hundreds of pages included a generic footer, inserted by some mechanism by congressional staffers, stating that the messages and “related” documents were “congressional records” and were not subject to FOIA. In September, the House Ways & Means Committee intervened in our lawsuit to argue that those four email chains should not have been turned over in any form; they should have been entirely invisible to the public.

In short, the administration is arguing that it can redact every substantive exchange in these emails despite the fact that they are communications with Congress that are normally subject to disclosure, and the Committee is arguing that the public shouldn’t even know that some of those emails exist.

Which brings us to today and American Oversight’s legal brief fighting these extraordinary anti-transparency efforts.

II. The Legal Fight—and the Important Stakes

The most important thing to understand about the arguments the administration and Congress are making is they are almost unprecedented and, if successful, would strike major blows against the public’s right to know what its government is up to. If either wins its argument, huge swaths of information that could otherwise be made public would be condemned to obscurity, for the very first time. Transparency is one of the only tools the public has to prevent, expose, and punish corruption. This is not the time to restrict it.

To understand why this is the case, let’s walk through the arguments being proffered and our rebuttals to them, starting with the agency arguments and then turning to Congress’s arguments.

A. The administration is treating one-party rule as a rationale to gut the separation of powers and invent new anti-transparency exceptions. 

Under FOIA, agencies may withhold from the public “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters that would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency . . . .” In plain English, agencies don’t have to disclose deliberations that occur within agencies or between agencies because doing so would chill those deliberations from taking place. For example, debates within HHS over what health care policy to enact generally can be redacted as “intra-agency” deliberations, whereas HHS’s emails with, say, an outside policy advocacy group about health care cannot.

Importantly, Congress is not an “agency” under FOIA. Congress wrote the statute and very explicitly exempted itself from the definition. But if Congress isn’t an “agency,” how can communications between agency personnel and congressional staff be protected as “inter-agency or intra-agency?” The answer under the statute is clear—they can’t—or at least that should be the case.

Here, the agencies have put forward two novel arguments. First, they argue that in the context of health care reform, Congress was serving as a “consultant” to the agencies, thereby bringing communications within the cone of protection. Second, they argue that the interests of the agencies and Congress were so aligned on health care that they can be protected under a “common interest” theory of privilege.

We disagree for several reasons.

First, as noted above, Congress isn’t an “agency” so its communications are not “inter-agency or intra-agency.” For the textualism legal minds out there, when the statutory text is unambiguous, the analysis should end.

Second, Congress is not, and cannot be, a “consultant” to executive branch agencies. While there is a line of cases that discuss the role of consultants under FOIA, none involves a case like this where the purported “consultant” had its own interests and was not effectively standing in the shoes of normal agency employees. You can’t look at the health care debate and think Congress was either unified within itself or acting on behalf of the administration. Ask the Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee whether they were on the same team with each other or with the administration at any given time this year. Indeed, in this very case Congress has intervened in the litigation to assert that it was not working on behalf of the agencies on health care, quite the opposite (see part II.B below).

Third, the “common interest” privilege asserted by the government literally has no application in this context. That privilege was developed to allow lawyers for parties engaged in the same legal matter, like litigation, to share information without waiving the attorney client privilege. It has never been applied to discussions between separate branches of government. It’s simply inapposite.

Fourth, the government’s position fundamentally misunderstands and distorts our constitutional scheme. The Constitution establishes a system of separation of powers under which each branch is separate, co-equal, and adverse to the others. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 51, the Constitution is designed to let “[a]ambition . . . counteract ambition” by giving each branch “the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others.” The notion that the executive branch could engage Congress as a consultant or that it can assert a “common interest” with Congress shatters the very framework of our system. The separation of powers is not meant to be convenient, quite the opposite. Madison did make an exception for when the separation of powers would be unnecessary: when humans are “angels.” Notably, the government has not claimed divine status in its briefs.

Finally, the consequences of endorsing either of the government’s arguments would be dire. Congress enacted FOIA 50 years ago to promote transparency. As the Supreme Court said, “The basic purpose of [ ] FOIA is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.” NLRB v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Co., 437 U.S. 214, 242 (1978). Up until now, communications between agencies and outside entities have been subject to that disclosure. But if the government wins on either of its theories, not only would communications with Congress be hidden from view, it could lead to many other external communications being obscured. For example, should the EPA be allowed to withhold its communications with conservative groups this year because it shares their views? The same standard wouldn’t apply to adversarial groups, such as environmental groups. If an election changed who is in power, the rules would flip.

B. Congress does not own its negotiations with the executive branch

Congress has intervened to challenge the release of four email chains in which some, but not all, messages are marked with a generic footer that the messages and “related” documents are “congressional records” and not subject to FOIA. That’s wrong; the documents are “agency records” under FOIA.

Citizens can use FOIA to reach “agency records.” Put simply, a document is an “agency record” if it was created or obtained by an agency and where the agency has control over the document, relies on the document, and integrates it into its files. The emails here plainly qualify: all of them were drafted or obtained by agency personnel and, according to the government’s arguments, relied on by the agency to formulate agency policy.

Congress would like the documents to be categorized as “congressional records,” which are exempt from FOIA. To qualify, courts require that Congress express a clear, particularized intent to retain control over the documents in question. The footer on the emails in this case does not meet that standard: it is an imprecise, generalized, and generic stamp inserted on ad hoc, routine inter-branch correspondence based on the subjective views of a congressional staffer.

In addition, there is no evidence that the agencies ever agreed to be bound by these footers; indeed, to some uproar earlier this year, the DOJ clarified that the executive branch can only be bound by the House, Senate, or chairs of congressional committees, not individual members (or, by corollary, individual committee staffers). Thus, it appears that Congress is trying to deny the public access to information based on instructions it tried to impose on the executive branch without prior agreement.

There has never been a case in which courts have protected the routine back-and-forth email exchanges pertaining to the independent tasks of the Congress and executive branch. In contrast, the quintessential congressional record case involved a transcript of confidential congressional testimony sent to an agency with express instructions that it could be used only for limited purposes.

In addition to being legally incorrect, Congress’s argument, if successful, would have serious, pernicious ramifications. Here’s why: there is nothing about the marked email messages that distinguishes them in substance from any of the other hundreds of pages of material—except that footer. And if the generic footer alone is sufficient—without regard to the content or nature of the underlying document—then the only reason Congress isn’t challenging the rest of the emails is that no one remembered to insert the footer.

Put another way, if the Committee wins, nothing would stop any of the thousands of congressional staffers on the Hill from taking it upon themselves to mark any of their emails with agencies as “congressional,” overriding the entire statutory scheme of FOIA. Seriously: if the footer is sufficient, anything from invitations for coffee to requests on behalf of well-heeled donors could be cloaked in invisibility on the mere say so (or, as our brief puts it, ipse dixit position) of a random Hill staffer.

In addition, there is no evidence that the agencies ever agreed to be bound by these footers; indeed, to some uproar earlier this year, the DOJ clarified that the executive branch can only be bound by the House, Senate, or chairs of congressional committees, not individual members (or, by corollary, individual committee staffers). Thus, it appears that Congress is trying to deny the public access to information based on instructions it tried to impose on the executive branch without prior agreement.

There has never been a case in which courts have protected the routine back-and-forth email exchanges pertaining to the independent tasks of the Congress and executive branch. In contrast, the quintessential congressional record case involved a transcript of confidential congressional testimony sent to an agency with express instructions that it could be used only for limited purposes.

In addition to being legally incorrect, Congress’s argument, if successful, would have serious, pernicious ramifications. Here’s why: there is nothing about the marked email messages that distinguishes them in substance from any of the other hundreds of pages of material—except that footer. And if the generic footer alone is sufficient—without regard to the content or nature of the underlying document—then the only reason Congress isn’t challenging the rest of the emails is that no one remembered to insert the footer.

Put another way, if the Committee wins, nothing would stop any of the thousands of congressional staffers on the Hill from taking it upon themselves to mark any of their emails with agencies as “congressional,” overriding the entire statutory scheme of FOIA. Seriously: if the footer is sufficient, anything from invitations for coffee to requests on behalf of well-heeled donors could be cloaked in invisibility on the mere say so (or, as our brief puts it, ipse dixit position) of a random Hill staffer.

Conclusion

At one point, the agencies argue that they should be allowed to withhold communications with Congress because they are “controlled by the same political party.” That says it all: in what should be a standard FOIA case, we are facing the dangerous argument that the powerful can discard our system of checks and balances and the rule of law when politically convenient. That’s not how it is supposed to work. It’s not how the Constitution was designed and it’s not how the FOIA statute was drafted. With two branches of government aligned against transparency, we are counting on the third to step in to protect the public. We look forward to addressing the court in November.

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July 14, 2020

Investigations Update: Militarization of Police, Covid-19 in Migrant Detention Centers, and Barr’s Political Interference

Central Intelligence Agency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, DHS - Transportation Security Administration, DOD - Defense Logistics Agency, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - Office of Legal Counsel, Florida - Palm Beach County, General Services Administration
July 10, 2020

News Roundup: Sidelining Safety and Science

Florida House of Representatives, Illinois - Chicago Mayor's Office, Illinois - Cook County
July 8, 2020

Investigations Update: Mike Pompeo’s Abuses of Office, Trump’s Loyalty Purges, and Caring for Uninsured Covid-19 Patients

Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, Florida Department of State, Florida House of Representatives, Florida Senate, HHS - Health Resources and Services Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health, Iowa Office of the Governor, Iowa Secretary of State, National Credit Union Administration, Nevada Office of the Governor, Nevada Secretary of State, New Hampshire Office of the Governor, North Carolina House of Representatives, Office of Personnel Management, Ohio House of Representatives, Ohio Office of the Governor, Ohio Secretary of State, Ohio Senate, Small Business Administration, Texas House of Representatives, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, Texas Senate, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
July 2, 2020

News Roundup: ‘It’s Going to Sort of Just Disappear’

Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of the Treasury, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Oklahoma - Tulsa County
July 2, 2020

Tulsa Health Officials Initially Estimated Trump Rally Would Directly Lead to 2 to 9 Deaths

Oklahoma - Tulsa County
July 1, 2020

American Oversight Sues Treasury for Records Related to Coronavirus Stimulus

Department of the Treasury
June 30, 2020

Investigations Update: Family Separation, Unmarked Law Enforcement, and Trump’s Campaign Rallies

Arizona Department of Health Services, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Interior, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - Transportation Security Administration, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOD - Defense Intelligence Agency, DOD - Department of the Army, DOD - National Guard Bureau, DOI - National Park Service, DOJ - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Florida Department of Health, New Hampshire Attorney General, New Hampshire Office of the Governor, New Hampshire Secretary of State, North Carolina Department of Health, Oklahoma - Tulsa County, Oklahoma Department of Health, Securities and Exchange Commission, Texas - Cameron County, Texas - Dallas County, Texas - Nueces County, Texas - Tarrant County, Texas - Travis County, Texas Attorney General, U.S. Agency for International Development
June 23, 2020

The Federal Government’s Latest Attempt to Delay the Release of Coronavirus Documents

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
June 19, 2020

News Roundup: The Administration’s Failure to Confront Two National Crises

Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DOJ - Civil Division, DOJ - Civil Rights Division, DOT Office of Inspector General, Florida - Jacksonville Mayor’s Office, Florida Department of Health, Florida Office of the Governor, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Credit Union Administration, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Small Business Administration, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Treasury - Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Science and Technology Policy, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
June 18, 2020

American Oversight Sues ICE for Records of Detention Center Complaints

DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement
June 18, 2020

New Lawsuit Seeks Records of Jared Kushner’s Failed Coronavirus Supply Chain Task Force

Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation
June 17, 2020

Wisconsin Documents Offer Window into Early Uncertainty over Covid-19

Wisconsin Department of Health Services
June 12, 2020

News Roundup: Georgia’s Disastrous Election, the Administration’s Alarming Protest Response, and Barr’s Troubling Tenure

Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Interior, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - Office of Intelligence and Analysis, DHS - Transportation Security Administration, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DHS - United States Secret Service, District of Columbia Mayor's Office, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, DOD - Defense Intelligence Agency, DOD - Department of the Air Force, DOD - National Guard Bureau, DOI - National Park Service, DOJ - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, DOJ - Civil Division, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons, DOJ - Justice Management Division, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Florida - Miami-Dade County, Florida Department of State, Maryland - Baltimore Mayor's Office, Nevada Secretary of State, New Jersey Department of Human Services, New York City Department for the Aging, New York City Office of the Mayor, New York Police Department, New York State Department of Health, New York State Office for the Aging, North Carolina, North Carolina House of Representatives, North Carolina Senate, Ohio House of Representatives, Ohio Secretary of State, Ohio Senate, State Office of the Inspector General, Texas Secretary of State, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Management and Budget, Wisconsin Elections Commission
June 11, 2020

In the Documents: Florida Health Department Efforts to Suppress Release of Coronavirus Records

Florida - Miami-Dade County
June 5, 2020

News Roundup: Trump and Barr Unleash Attack on Protesters — and the Constitution

Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - Transportation Security Administration, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DHS - United States Secret Service, DOD - Department of the Army, DOD - National Guard Bureau, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, DOT - Federal Aviation Administration, Florida Department of State, Florida House of Representatives, Florida Office of the Governor, Florida Senate, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Washington - King County
June 5, 2020

In the Documents: Coronavirus-Related Records from Nevada and King County, Wash.

May 29, 2020

News Roundup: A Somber Week After Memorial Day

Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOD - Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, DOD - Department of the Army, DOD - National Security Agency, DOD - U.S. Department of the Navy, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, North Carolina Department of Health, North Carolina Office of the Governor, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, U.S. Agency for Global Media, Wisconsin - Brown County, Wisconsin - Dane County, Wisconsin - Milwaukee County, Wisconsin - Outagamie County, Wisconsin - Waukesha County, Wisconsin - Winnebago County
May 22, 2020

News Roundup: One Firing, Multiple Scandals

Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Interior, DOD - Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia - Athens-Clarke County, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Department of Administrative Services, Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia Secretary of State, Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Small Business Administration, State Office of the Inspector General, Texas - Bexar County, Texas - Dallas County, Texas - Harris County, Texas - Travis County, Texas - Webb County, Texas Department of State Health Services, U.S. Agency for International Development, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
May 21, 2020

American Oversight Sues Administration for Documentation of Detention Center Covid Response

Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons
May 15, 2020

News Roundup: The Subversion of Justice at the Justice Department

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Office of Legal Counsel, DOT - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Department of Corrections, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Louisiana - New Orleans Mayor's Office, Louisiana Department of Health, Louisiana Office of the Governor, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York City Office of the Mayor, New York Office of the Governor, New York State Department of Health, Small Business Administration, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Management and Budget, Wisconsin Elections Commission
May 15, 2020

The CDC Has Been Illegally Rejecting Valid FOIA Requests. We’re Suing.

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
May 8, 2020

News Roundup: Who Will Watch the Inspectors General?

Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - United States Coast Guard, DOD - Department of the Air Force, DOD - Department of the Army, DOD - U.S. Department of the Navy, DOD - U.S. Marine Corps, DOJ - Civil Division, DOJ - Criminal Division, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Election Commission, Georgia - Troup County, Georgia Attorney General, Georgia Department of Administrative Services, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Treasury - Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Agency for International Development, White House - Office of Management and Budget
May 6, 2020

American Oversight Sues Treasury, State and HHS for Coronavirus Communications

Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
May 1, 2020

News Roundup: Protecting the Right to Vote During a Pandemic

Arizona - Yuma County, Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, Arizona Department of Homeland Security, Arizona-Mexico Commission, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida Department of State, Florida Office of the Governor, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia - Richmond County, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Indiana Secretary of State, Iowa Secretary of State, Kentucky Secretary of State, Kentucky State Board of Elections, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, New Jersey - Essex County, New Orleans, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Texas Attorney General, Texas Secretary of State, Wisconsin Elections Commission
April 30, 2020

New Documents: Calendars of HHS Officials Involved in Reversing Health Care Nondiscrimination Protections

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Administration for Children and Families
April 24, 2020

News Roundup: Miracle Drugs and Trump’s Alternate Reality

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons, Florida Department of Corrections, General Services Administration, Georgia - Albany-Dougherty County, Georgia - Chatham County, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia - Macon-Bibb County, Georgia - Muscogee County, Georgia - Richmond County, Georgia Department of Community Health, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health, Illinois - Cook County, Texas Health and Human Services, USDA - Food Safety and Inspection Service, VA - Veterans Health Administration, Washington - King County, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
April 23, 2020

An Update on American Oversight’s Coronavirus Investigation: New Lawsuits and Requests

Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Treasury - Internal Revenue Service, USDA - Food Safety and Inspection Service
April 17, 2020

News Roundup: Who Stands to Gain?

Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Reserve, Florida, Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, Florida Department of Health, Florida Division of Emergency Management, Florida Office of the Governor, Georgia - Tybee Island City, Georgia Department of Administrative Services, Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, Small Business Administration, Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, Wisconsin Senate, Wisconsin State Assembly
April 10, 2020

News Roundup: Corruption and Coronavirus

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DHS - United States Secret Service, DOD - U.S. Department of the Navy, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - Justice Management Division, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, DOJ - Office of Legal Counsel, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - Indian Health Service, Nevada Department of Administration, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, U.S. Agency for International Development
April 10, 2020

American Oversight Sues for Coronavirus-Related Records

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
April 3, 2020

News Roundup: Whose Stockpile, and Which States?

California Office of the Governor, Central Intelligence Agency, Commerce - Bureau of Industry and Security, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, Florida - Broward County, Florida - Duval County, Florida - Gadsden County, Florida - Hendry County, Florida - Jackson County, Florida - Leon County, Florida - Miami-Dade County, Florida - Osceola County, Florida Office of the Governor, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, New York Office of the Governor, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Ohio Office of the Governor, Oklahoma Department of Health, Oklahoma Office of the Governor, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Washington - King County, Washington Office of the Governor, White House - Office of Management and Budget
March 30, 2020

‘We Are Flying Blind’: Health Officials’ Late February Emails Show Rising Coronavirus Concerns

Washington - King County
March 28, 2020

A Pandemic Is No Time for Secrecy

March 27, 2020

News Roundup: Transparency and Oversight Are More Important Than Ever

Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - National Security Division, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Election Commission, Florida Attorney General, Florida Department of State, Florida Office of the Governor, General Services Administration, Georgia - Bartow County, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 24, 2020

We Cannot Let Trump Use a National Emergency to Get Rich and Ignore the Constitution

Congress, White House
March 23, 2020

CDC Calendars from 2018 and 2019: Pandemic-Related Briefings and Meetings

HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
March 20, 2020

News Roundup: Testing, Messaging and Missed Chances

Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Communications Commission, Florida Attorney General, Georgia Attorney General, Nevada Department of Administration, Texas - Harris County, Texas Attorney General, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 20, 2020

An Update on American Oversight’s Coronavirus Investigation

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Reserve, HHS - Administration for Children and Families, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health, New York Office of the Governor, New York State Department of Health, Texas Department of State Health Services, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington - King County, Washington State Department of Health, White House - Office of Management and Budget, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
March 13, 2020

News Roundup: Continuing Our Investigation of Coronavirus Response

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve, Georgia Secretary of State, Texas Secretary of State, Washington State Department of Health, Wisconsin
March 6, 2020

News Roundup: Rising Coronavirus Fears and Sinking Public Trust

Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOI - Bureau of Land Management, DOJ - Criminal Division, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, Federal Reserve, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Department of Driver Services, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Administration for Children and Families, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health, Texas - Briscoe County, Texas - Freestone County, Texas - Hall County, Texas - Hill County, Texas - Hood County, Texas - Jones County, Texas - Kendall County, Texas - Lavaca County, Texas - Leon County, Texas - Limestone County, Texas - Loving County, Texas - Morris County, Texas - Scurry County, Texas - Starr County, Texas - Swisher County, Texas - Victoria County, Texas Secretary of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, VA - Veterans Health Administration, Washington - King County, Washington State Department of Health, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 2, 2020

In the Documents: Read the Script for an HHS Anti-Obamacare Ad That Was Apparently Never Released

Department of Health and Human Services
February 28, 2020

News Roundup: Launching Our Investigation of Trump’s Authoritarian Purges

Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, DOD - National Security Agency, DOI - Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, Florida - Hillsborough County, Florida - Leon County, Florida Department of State, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
February 21, 2020

News Roundup: The Post-Impeachment Purge and the Knock of Authoritarianism

Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, DHS - United States Secret Service, DOI - Fish and Wildlife Service, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, White House - Office of Management and Budget
February 14, 2020

News Roundup: Trump Has Learned His ‘Lesson’

Central Intelligence Agency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, Federal Reserve, Florida House of Representatives, Florida Senate, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Kentucky Office of the Governor, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Wisconsin Senate, Wisconsin State Assembly
January 17, 2020

News Roundup: The Evidence Continues to Mount

Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of State, Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia - Clayton County, Georgia - Hancock County, Georgia - Jefferson County, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
September 6, 2019

News Roundup: Trump’s Enthusiastic Support for New Drug Raises Questions

Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia Department of Driver Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission, Texas Attorney General, White House - Council on Environmental Quality
August 27, 2019

Investigating HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s Connections to Pharmaceutical Companies

Department of Health and Human Services
August 13, 2019

More Examples of Personal Email Use and Heavy-Handed Outside Influence at the VA

Department of Veterans Affairs
June 4, 2019

Documents Reveal Extent of Koch-Funded VA Privatization Group’s Influence

Department of Veterans Affairs
May 30, 2019

Trump Administration Appeals Court Decision Ordering It to Turn Over Communications with Congress About ACA Sabotage

Congress, Department of Health and Human Services, White House - Office of Management and Budget
April 2, 2019

Federal Judge Rejects Administration’s Argument for Withholding Communications with Congress about ACA Sabotage

Department of Health and Human Services, White House - Office of Management and Budget
March 8, 2019

Watchdogs Sue HHS Following Women’s Health Website Overhaul

Department of Health and Human Services
March 1, 2019

HHS Secretary Azar Calendars Show Multiple Meetings with Conservative Health-Care Groups

Department of Health and Human Services
February 21, 2019

New Lawsuit Seeks HHS Communications with Anti-Abortion Groups

Department of Health and Human Services
March 9, 2018

American Oversight Sues HHS and CMS for Verma Ethics Records

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
September 15, 2017

Congress Enters Legal Fight to Block Release of Obamacare Repeal Emails

Congress, Department of Health and Human Services
September 13, 2017

“News to Me!” – Inside the Health Care Emails

White House - Office of Management and Budget
September 7, 2017

Third Set of Health Care Emails Again Shows Trump Administration Effort to Hide Negotiations

Department of Health and Human Services, White House - Office of Management and Budget
August 2, 2017

New Health Care Documents Show Effort to Hide Details of Negotiations

Department of Health and Human Services, White House - Office of Management and Budget
July 20, 2017

American Oversight Sues HHS and OMB For Secret Trump Letter Outlining Plan to Weaken Obamacare

Department of Health and Human Services, White House, White House - Office of Management and Budget
May 4, 2017

Watchdog Files Lawsuit, Seeks Injunction for HHS, OMB Health Care Negotiation Record

Department of Health and Human Services, White House - Office of Management and Budget
March 23, 2017

American Oversight Demands Release of Secret Health Care Negotiations

Department of Health and Human Services, White House - Office of Management and Budget