Inside Trump’s Voter-Fraud Crusade
Vann Newkirk – August 8, 2018, The Atlantic
Months after the group’s dissolution, a newly released slate of reports, emails, and meeting materials from the commission confirms the skeptical view. The cache of documents, obtained by the commission member and Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap after he sued to have a court release them, highlights that much of the commission’s correspondence and activities were part of efforts by a tight circle of Republican officials, activists, researchers, and journalists to identify noncitizen voters. Their efforts seem to have focused less on a number of other serious issues around election integrity than on a broader anti-immigration agenda. The documents reveal that the commission, far from the vigilant and neutral defender of American democracy that White House leadership pretended to have chartered, conducted an inquisition during its seven-month existence.
Trump panel found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, sought ‘pre-ordained outcome’: Former member
Lee Harris and Quinn Owen– August 5, 2018, CNN
A former Democratic member of the Trump administration’s now-disbanded election integrity commission says newly-released documents show no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and that “dissenting or even questioning voices” on the panel were unwelcome.
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the two Republican leaders of the commission, that assertions of widespread fraud appeared aimed at fulfilling a “pre-ordained objective” of finding evidence to back up earlier unsubstantiated claims by President Trump that millions voted illegally in the 2016 election.
Trump voting commission had no evidence of widespread voter fraud, former member says
Clare Foran – August 4, 2018, CNN
The now-disbanded commission that President Donald Trump set up to investigate election integrity did not find evidence of widespread voter fraud, a former member of the panel said on Friday, citing internal documents he obtained related to commission activities.
“I have reviewed the Commission documents made available to me and they do not contain evidence of widespread voter fraud,” Maine’s Democratic secretary of state, Matthew Dunlap, wrote in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas’ Republican secretary of state, Kris Kobach.
Top Trump-appointee at Veterans Affairs spread conspiracy theories, made anti-Muslim comments
Stephanie Mencimer – July 24, 2018, CNN
A senior Trump administration appointee at the Department of Veterans Affairs spread birther conspiracy theories about then-President Barack Obama and made anti-Muslim comments on social media while working for the Trump campaign in Arizona.
Thayer Verschoor, the VA’s executive director of intergovernmental affairs, is a former Arizona state Senate majority leader and longtime ally of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a well-known birther who is currently running in the Republican primary for US Senate in Arizona.
Shortly after joining the Trump campaign in 2016, Verschoor shared a Facebook post that praised then-candidate Trump for thinking “Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud” and understanding there’s a Muslim “problem” in the US.
See our VA resumes which include Thayer Verschoor’s resume here.
Judicial Watchdogs Are in Court to Make Brett Kavanaugh’s Entire Record Public
Stephanie Mencimer – July 18, 2018, Mother Jones
A month before President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in January 2017, the nonprofit court watchdog group Fix the Court had already filed a Freedom of Information Act with the US Department of Justice. The group wanted records related to Gorsuch’s service as deputy assistant attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, particularly those related to any work he may have done on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. DOJ failed to respond to the request, in any meaningful way, and Fix the Court filed suit in February 2017. The litigation dragged on long after Gorsuch was confirmed in April, and the group finally gave up, never having obtained the full scope of Gorsuch’s records. It doesn’t intend to let that happen again with Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.
See our lawsuits representing Fix The Court seeking to compel release of records of Kavanaugh’s time in government from DOJ and NARA.
Wilbur Ross stock holdings rose in value during improper divestment delay
Carrie Levine – July 5, 2018, Center for Public Integrity
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears to have earned seven figures from his failure to divest stock holdings until months after he was required to do so, a Center for Public Integrity analysis found.
Ross was supposed to sell his Invesco Ltd. stock, valued at between $10 million and $50 million, within 90 days of his Senate confirmation, according to his ethics agreement. He was confirmed on Feb. 27, 2017, which meant he was required to divest before the end of May 2017.
But in filings publicly released last month, Ross acknowledged he failed to sell his stock in Invesco until December 2017. By that time, his stock’s value had increased by between approximately $1.2 million to $6 million over its value at the end of May, depending on Ross’ actual number of shares, a figure that hasn’t previously been reported.
See the related records discussing Ross’ divestment before confirmation here.
HUD staffer who complained about Carson’s redecorating resigns under protest
Jack Gillum and Juliet Eilperin – June 27, 2018, The Washington Post
Foster filed a complaint with the special counsel’s office late last year, saying she was demoted in part for warning officials that the redecorations planned would require congressional notification since their cost would exceed $5,000. Despite that threshold, she alleged staffers had instructed her to “find money” for the effort.
Documents released by the left-leaning group American Oversight revealed HUD staffers vetted different furniture options for Carson while soliciting input from his wife, Candy.
In emails released under the Freedom of Information Act, Foster wrote to colleagues about being forced to respond to “endless questions about why I won’t fund more than the $5000 limit” for redecorating the office.
See related records we obtained of Ben Carson’s office renovation expenses here.
Senators Set Deadline for Ajit Pai’s FCC to Open Up About Its DDoS Attack Claims
Tom McKay – June 16, 2018, Gizmodo
In a letter shared with Gizmodo, Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) tell the FCC that they would like to see evidence of either cyberattack beyond “initial internal analyses,” such as subsequent government or third-party security firm investigations. They also ask the FCC to clarify on what grounds they determined the comment system downtime on either date was best classified as a cyberattack, as well as ask Pai whether he is cooperating in full with the Government Accountability Office (GOA) investigation to determine exactly what happened.
It’s been clear for some time that the FCC’s narrative on the alleged cyberattack is full of holes and outright fallacies; the agency has refused to release unredacted emails about the 2017 incident, meaning just what key personnel like Pai knew and when is being hidden from the public. Those records may prove crucial to determine whether the agency’s revocation of the net neutrality rules was pushed through as the agency knowingly lied to the public.
See records we uncovered of FCC communications regarding the alleged attack here.
House Democrat accuses Scott Pruitt of delaying public-records requests by answering Obama-era ones first
Dino Grandoni – June 11, 2018, The Washington Post
The “first-in, first out” tactic for requests made through the Freedom of Information Act is yet another example of the EPA restricting what records make their way into the public eye since Pruitt has taken office. That public-records policy was described in a letter sent Monday to Pruitt by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, which requested documents from the administrator.
That committee’s investigation into Pruitt is just one of at least a dozen federal inquiries the EPA chief is facing over his questionable spending and management decisions at the agency.
His tenure has also drawn the scrutiny of journalists, environmentalists and other members of the public who have filed thousands of FOIA requests with the EPA since Pruitt has taken office and attempted to unravel environmental rules put in place by the previous administration.
See our lawsuit on the EPA’s practice of systematically delaying FOIA requests here.
Two Pruitt Aides Resign as E.P.A. Ethics Questions Continue:
Lisa Friedman and Eric Lipton – June 6, 2018, New York Times
The departures come as Mr. Pruitt faces fresh questions about his management decisions. On Monday, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, which is conducting one of 12 investigations into his spending and ties to lobbyists, released a partial transcript of an interview with Ms. Hupp showing that Mr. Pruitt asked her to do personal errands for him, including apartment hunting and asking the Trump International Hotel if Mr. Pruitt could purchase a used mattress.
Emails obtained under public records laws also showed that Mr. Pruitt had asked Sydney Hupp, Ms. Hupp’s sister and the administrator’s former scheduler, to facilitate a meeting with the chief executive of Chick-fil-A regarding a “potential business opportunity.” That turned out to be a possible franchise for Mr. Pruitt’s wife, Marlyn.
White House’s Nafta Approach Frustrates Businesses, Panicked Emails Show
Ana Swanson– June 6, 2018, New York Times
Documents show corporations and trade groups — such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, or NAM — struggling to get their voices heard within a supposedly business-friendly administration and sending increasingly panicked emails to the United States trade representative’s office about its approach to rewriting the pact.
Throughout last spring and summer, high-level trade negotiators repeatedly canceled meetings with the chamber, instead finally sending a 24-year-old deputy to meet with a delegation that was expected to include representatives from more than 50 of the largest American companies and organizations, including Walmart, U.P.S., the Walt Disney Company, General Electric, General Motors, Caterpillar and Boeing.
See the related email communications we obtained about the Trump administration’s attempts to renegotiate NAFTA here.
FCC Emails Show Agency Spread Lies to Bolster Dubious DDoS Attack Claims
Dell Cameron – June 5, 2018, Gizmodo
Internal emails reviewed by Gizmodo lay bare the agency’s efforts to counter rife speculation that senior officials manufactured a cyberattack, allegedly to explain away technical problems plaguing the FCC’s comment system amid its high-profile collection of public comments on a controversial and since-passed proposal to overturn federal net neutrality rules.
The FCC has been unwilling or unable to produce any evidence an attack occurred—not to the reporters who’ve requested and even sued over it, and not to U.S. lawmakers who’ve demanded to see it. Instead, the agency conducted a quiet campaign to bolster its cyberattack story with the aid of friendly and easily duped reporters, chiefly by spreading word of an earlier cyberattack that its own security staff say never happened.
See the related emails about the alleged cyberattack against the FCC’s net neutrality comment section here.
Group files suit to show whether offshore drilling announcement was supposed to boost Scott
Bruce Ritchie – May 24, 2018, Politico
Zinke in January proposed drilling in most federal waters, including those off the Florida coast. But he later announced that Florida was “off the table” after meeting with Gov. Rick Scott, who later filed to run for Senate against Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
American Oversight said Wednesday it was suing for records to shed light on the department’s decision to exempt Florida. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington seeks emails and other records related to offshore drilling in 14 coastal states, including Florida.
Zinke’s decision to exclude Florida as Scott was preparing an election bid for the Senate “looks like more than a coincidence,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, in a statement first provided to POLITICO.
See our related lawsuit into Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida from his offshore drilling plan here.
Rise from one-time Uber driver to chief of staff startles some HUD observers
Rene Marsh – May 14, 2018, CNN
CNN’s review of Hughes’ prior experience and employment as listed on his financial disclosure form found that, just eight months before joining HUD, Hughes worked as a special projects coordinator for the University of Texas System and briefly as an Uber driver.
During his time at the university, Hughes managed social media and websites, compiled press releases, planned university events, researched funding opportunities and kept abreast of any legislation related to higher education, according to his resume, obtained through a freedom of information request by American Oversight, a watchdog group with former Obama appointees.
Former political appointees from both parties, along with current department staff, have expressed concern that Carson, a medical doctor with no government experience prior to taking the reins of HUD, is surrounded by some advisers and now a chief of staff who are similarly inexperienced.
FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly Violated Federal Law to Promote Trump, Special Counsel’s Office Says
Dell Cameron – May 1, 2018, Gizmodo
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) determined that O’Rielly violated the Hatch Act when he told a crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to “make sure President Trump gets re-elected,” the letter says. The OSC wrote that O’Rielly “violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using his official authority or influence to affect an election.”
The Hatch Act, passed in 1939, forbids most federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity while on the job.
The OSC issued O’Rielly a warning stating that another violation would be considered “a willful and knowing violation of the law, which could result in further action pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 1215.”
See our letter to the OSC claiming that FCC Commissioner O’Rielly violated the Hatch Act here.
Ben Carson Defends Buying $31,000 Dining Set to Congress: ‘I Left It to My Wife’
Glenn Thrush – March 20, 2018, The New York Times
But for the most part, Mr. Carson sought to distance himself from the purchase, saying that he had delegated most of the decision-making to his wife and top aides, including his executive assistant
“I invited my wife to come and help,” he said. “I left it to my wife, you know, to choose something. I dismissed myself from the issues.” And it was Mrs. Carson, he said, who “selected the color and style” of the furniture, “with the caveat that we were both not happy about the price.”
But emails released under a Freedom of Information Act request last week seemed to contradict that account. In an Aug. 29, 2017 email, the department’s administrative officer, Aida Rodriguez, wrote that one of her colleagues “has printouts of the furniture the secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.”
See emails we uncovered related to Ben Carson’s office redecoration expenses here.
Scott Pruitt’s $25,000 soundproof phone booth? It actually cost more like $43,000.
Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin – March 14, 2018, The Washington Post
The agency paid a Virginia firm $7,978 to remove closed-circuit television equipment to make room for the booth, according to a federal database. Officials hired another contractor to pour 55 square feet of concrete more than two feet thick, at a cost of $3,470, according to invoices released under a public records request by the watchdog group American Oversight. Other workers installed a drop ceiling for $3,361, while still others patched and painted the small area for $3,350, records show.
In total, the EPA appears to have spent more than $18,000 on the prep work, readying the space for a $25,000 soundproof booth that has brought Pruitt a wave of criticism and official scrutiny. The total cost for the project now appears to be closer to $43,000.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) later found that Scott Pruitt violated federal spending laws.
See Scott Pruitt’s office renovation expenses, including the extra expenses for the installation of the soundproof booth here
Big Pharma’s Government Revolving Door: ‘Who Do They Really Work For?’
Sydney Lupkin – January 25, 2018, The Daily Beast
KHN also reviewed the résumés of more than 100 HHS appointees, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by American Oversight, a nonprofit founded to hold government officials accountable. Although only a handful of recent appointees were employed directly by drug companies, more than a dozen had worked as lobbyists, consultants, and lawyers on behalf of pharmaceutical firms.
The high-level HHS appointees include: Keagan Lenihan, a former lobbyist for drug distributor McKesson who now serves as senior counselor to the secretary at HHS; former PhRMA lobbyist John O’Brien, now deputy assistant secretary of health policy for the agency’s Planning and Evaluation arm; and former Bristol-Myers Squibb lobbyist Mary-Sumpter Lapinski, an attorney in the HHS secretary’s office.
See HHS resumes we uncovered here.
Lachlan Markay – January 25, 2018, The Daily Beast
Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, is relying on a small group of relatively unseasoned officials to advance a complex agenda, including renegotiating landmark free trade deals and cracking down on allegedly unfair practices by China, Mexico, and other major global economic partners. None have drawn more scrutiny and attention within the trade policy community than G. Payne Griffin, Lighthizer’s deputy chief of staff.
Few, if anyone, in trade circles knew of Griffin prior to his appointment by Lighthizer. That’s because, prior to his appointment by Lighthizer, Griffin was not in trade circles. Griffin attended American University where, by all accounts, he was an exemplary student. He graduated with a bachelors in economics and political science in 2014 and made the Dean’s List. His first job out of college was as a staff assistant for Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL). By January 2015, he was a legislative correspondent for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a job that typically involves corresponding with constituents and helping senior staff craft policy.
See USTR resumes we uncovered here.
Meet the 24-year-old Trump campaign worker appointed to help lead the government’s drug policy office
Robert O’Harrow Jr. – January 14, 2018, The Washington Post
In May 2016, Taylor Weyeneth was an undergraduate at St. John’s University in New York, a legal studies student and fraternity member who organized a golf tournament and other events to raise money for veterans and their families.
Less than a year later, at 23, Weyeneth, was a political appointee and rising star at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the White House office responsible for coordinating the federal government’s multibillion dollar anti-drug initiatives and supporting President Trump’s efforts to curb the opioid epidemic. Weyeneth would soon become deputy chief of staff.
Following the report, the appointee announced that he would resign, highlighting the importance of holding the Trump administration accountable for who they hire into senior-level jobs — including those that do not need to be confirmed by the Senate.
See Treasury resumes we uncovered here.
HHS Political Appointees’ Résumés Show Ties to Price, Pence
January 8, 2018, Roll Call
The résumés were shared exclusively with Roll Call after being obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by American Oversight, a watchdog group formed last year to track the Trump administration. The documents show that a bevy of appointees are HHS veterans from the George W. Bush administration. That will include Azar, who technically needs to be re-nominated by Trump since his nomination did not roll over into 2018.
Azar, who served as both general counsel and deputy HHS secretary during the Bush administration, likely already has a working familiarity with many agency staffers, including career employees and appointees, said Tom Scully, a former CMS administrator under President George W. Bush who also worked with Azar. Having previously led pharmaceutical company Lilly USA, Azar will likely bring people he knows well into the administration, but Scully said it was unlikely he would tap many people from the industry.
See HHS resumes we uncovered here.
The State Department Accidentally Promoted Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. Then Chaos Ensued.
Lachlan Markay – December 11, 2017, The Daily Beast
When the State Department published a glowing profile of President Donald Trump’s “winter White House” at Mar-a-Lago in April, they thought it would be a mundane bit of content that might attract a few foreign readers to U.S. embassy websites. Instead, staff found themselves embroiled in a heated controversy over the use of government resources to promote the president’s private business interests, according to a review of internal emails.
The post from ShareAmerica, a news and information division of the State Department, provided a brief history of the Mar-a-Lago property and noted Trump’s use of his club early in his presidency to host high-level meetings with foreign leaders.
See our investigation into the ways Donald Trump profits off the presidency here.
Several Trump Properties Suffer Financially (But Not Ones He Visits Often)
Jackie Northam – December 3, 2017, NPR
“Some of his businesses around the world are not doing particularly well, but the ones he frequents as president are doing better than ever,” says Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, a D.C.-based accountability organization. He says golf courses where Trump plays regularly, in New Jersey and Virginia, are doing well.
“You see that at the Trump International Hotel, which got to raise rates in 2017 and went from predicting that it would run a loss to turning a profit. … You also see increased profits at Mar-a-Lago, which the president has rebranded as the ‘winter White House,’ ” he says.
See our investigation into the ways Donald Trump profits off the presidency here.
‘UGH!’: Zinke’s wife’s travel caused headaches for Interior staff
Ben Lefebvre – November 20, 2017, Politico
Lolita Zinke was originally scheduled to return to Washington, DC, from Alaska on a military flight, but she requested to stay in Alaska longer with her husband as he was set to attend a Memorial Day ceremony. “Mrs. Zinke prolonged her trip because the Senator invited her to participate in the Rolling Thunder ride and ceremony,” Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said in an email.
Swift added that Lolita Zinke had paid for her own commercial flight back home from Alaska.
The documents show that after an advance staffer learned that Lolita Zinke would be departing at a different date than previously scheduled, the staffer emailed with another staffer: “UGH! We have all kinds of planes, trains and automobiles manifests to now scramble with.”
See our related records detailing Lola Zinke’s involvement at Interior here.
C.E.O. of Puerto Rico Power Authority Resigns
Frances Robles – November 11, 2017, New York Times
He [Zinke] immediately came under withering criticism and congressional and federal review for awarding a $300 million contract to a small private company from Montana, Whitefish Energy Holdings, to help repair the grid. Prepa had agreed to pay $319 an hour for electrical linemen; the average salary in Puerto Rico for that work is $19 an hour. The authority later canceled the contract, even while defending it.
Mr. Ramos faced a skeptical Senate hearing on Tuesday. Lawmakers were hesitant to approve the governor’s request for $94 billion in aid while questions remained unanswered about the power grid contract. Mr. Ramos told lawmakers that there had been no kickbacks, but acknowledged that the company had long been rife with political patronage, and that up to half of the employees were the family members of politicians.
See our investigating into the $300 million dollar contract awarded to a Zinke-linked company here.
Trump’s Claim That Obama Wiretapped His Campaign is False: U.S. Department of Justice
Nina Burleigh – September 2, 2017, Newsweek
The statement came in a court filing Friday night in response to a Freedom of Information Act suit filed by the government watchdog group American Oversight, which had requested “Warrant applications or records requesting a court order to intercept communications related to candidate Donald Trump, Trump Tower, entities housed in Trump Tower, or any person affiliated with Mr. Trump’s campaign; court orders approving or rejecting those requests; records of those wiretaps, and; communications between the FBI or DOJ and Congress relating to these issues.”
See the records we obtained where DOJ stated Trump’s claims were false here.
Trump voter fraud commission faces lawsuit from member
Christina A. Cassidy – November 9, 2017, The Associated Press
The commission has spurred controversy from the moment it was established in May. Its first significant action was to request a wide range of information about all registered voters in every state, including partial Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and voting history.
Critics say Trump is using the commission to find support for his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud that cost him the popular vote during the 2016 election. Democrat Hillary Clinton received 2.8 million more votes nationwide than Trump.
See our lawsuit on behalf of Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and our investigation into the voter fraud commission here.
Betsy DeVos’s Schedule Shows Focus on Religious and Nontraditional Schools
Eric Lipton – October 27, 2017, The New York Times
An examination of Ms. DeVos’s calendar shows that she frequently leaves Washington on what appear to be long weekends, as her work calendar indicates no appointments on certain Fridays or Mondays surrounding these trips to destinations that have included Vero Beach, Fla., Aspen, Colo., and Grand Rapids, Mich. All are places where Ms. DeVos or a member of her family owns a home.
The records show that Ms. DeVos took long weekends on at least 11 occasions, meaning that her work calendar indicates no appointments on at least one workday around the weekend.
On Friday, March 3, for example, the records show that Ms. DeVos went to Aspen — where her family owns a ski-in, ski-out home in Snowmass Village — and that she did not return to the office, or have any work appointments, until Tuesday, March 7.
See Betsy DeVos’ calendars and our analysis of her schedule here.
Trump’s Small Business Chief Gave Speech at His Hotel, But Aides Tried to Keep Location Quiet
Max Kutner – October 24, 2017, Newsweek
During the event in September, an SBA staffer whose title is special adviser texted the agency’s deputy press secretary. The messages contained several photos of McMahon speaking, the documents show. In response to the photos, the deputy wrote, “Can you try to get the portrait mode one without the ‘Trump hotel’ sign in it?”
The staffer who sent the photos replied, “I know Trying to avoid it. Will try again.”
The deputy responded, “Lols.” Then the first staffer sent a photo of McMahon without the sign.
At one point, someone texted the deputy, “I’ll tweet with excerpts from speech…and crop the opulence out!” That person’s full name is not visible in the released document, and in the reply to that text, the deputy thanked the person by a name different from the one visible in the other messages. The documents contain the names of two of the staffers involved in the exchange.
See the emails and texts we obtained that show McMahon’s staff trying to hide her location here.
E.P.A. Chief’s Calendar: A Stream of Industry Meetings and Trips Home
Eric Lipton and Lisa Friedman – October 3, 2017, The New York Times
In recent weeks, Freedom of Information Act requests from environmentalists, other nonprofit groups and news organizations including The Washington Post have dislodged documents that hint at Mr. Pruitt’s typical day. But for the first time, the most recent release, based on an open records request by the liberal nonprofit American Oversight, includes a description of the topics discussed at each of the meetings, and a list of all the agency officials and corporate executives scheduled to attend.
See former Administrator Pruitt’s calendars here.
Here’s the Email Ivanka Trump Sent From Her Private Account Doing Government Work
Inao Oh – September 25, 2017, Mother Jones
The new set of emails show Trump in February discussing a women’s entrepreneurship initiative on her private account with Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon. While Trump did not officially become a federal employee till March, Newsweek reports it’s highly likely she had access to a government email account at the time.
The revelation comes just one day after Politico reported her husband Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, used a private email account to communicate with other White House officials.
During the presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump slammed Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state and urged that she be prosecuted and locked up for the offense.
See Ivanka Trump’s emails we obtained here.
Austin Evers Discusses Trump Inaugural Funds on MSNBC
The Beat with Ari Melber– September 18, 2017
— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) September 18, 2017
Left says Trump EPA heavy on industry, political insiders
Timothy Cama – September 17, 2017, The Hill
Some of the individuals have already left the agency, but critics say the resumes show the administration is stacking the EPA with former industry officials as well as Trump and Pruitt political backers, with few environmental experts.
Samantha Dravis, for example, leads the office of policy at the 15,000-person agency, a powerful office that influences many of the major decisions the EPA makes in areas like air and water pollution.
See former Administrator Pruitt’s calendars here.
Cover-ups, excuses, denials swamp Trump camp on Russia contacts
The Rachel Maddow Show – September 12, 2017
That confirmation that President Obama never ordered a wiretap at Trump Tower, that confirmation that President Trump actually lied when he made that allegation about President Obama, that confirmation was forced begrudgingly into the public record, into that court filing by a Freedom of Information Act demand that was filed by a group called American Oversight.
And you know what? Tactically that was a smart use of FOIA, right, as a matter of public accountability, when you think about it. I mean, here is the president saying that the U.S. government had been directed by his predecessor to wiretap Trump’s phones. If that allegation were true, reasonably speaking, there would be records of that order or at least there would be records of that order being carried out.
See the records we obtained where DOJ stated Trump’s claims were false here.
Tapper: Trump’s Obama wiretap claims were lies
The Lead with Jake Tapper – September 5, 2017
Late on Friday, the Justice Department quietly acknowledged in a court filing that they too could find no evidence for President Trump’s wild tweets accusing former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower back in March.
The Justice Department was responding to a Freedom of Information Act request for evidence backing up the President’s claim. But even the President’s own Justice Department came up snake eyes on that role. Qute: both the FBI and NSD — that’s National Security Division of the Justice Department — confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017, tweets, the filing read. That, of course, supports what then FBI Director James Comey told Congress also in March.
See the records we obtained where DOJ stated Trump’s claims were false here.
Trump civil rights official listed Clinton attacks as qualification on resume
Kimberly Hefling – August 31, 2017, Politico
Candice Jackson, who brought a group of women who had accused President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to a presidential debate last year between Trump and Hillary Clinton, listed that event as one of her “top five qualifications” for working in the administration….
POLITICO obtained the résumé from American Oversight, a watchdog group that acquired it using a Freedom of Information Act request. It’s not clear whether the document was submitted directly to the Education Department or by another means, such as to the Trump transition team.
See Candice Jackson’s resume here.
Here is the official résumé of the person Trump put in charge of federal housing in New York
Tracy Jan – August 18, 2017, The Washington Post
The person President Trump tapped this summer to oversee one of the largest regions under the Department of Housing & Urban Development is a longtime Trump family employee with no experience in housing, according to the one-page résumé Lynne Patton submitted as part of the transition.
Patton began working for Trump’s son Eric in 2009 as the vice president of his foundation and as his primary aide. She oversaw all aspects of his business, charity and personal obligations. That included his home and spousal responsibilities as well as coordinating events.
See Lynne Patton’s and other HUD resumes here.
Justice Department releases portion of Sessions security clearance form claiming no contacts with foreign officials
Ellen Nakashima – July 13, 2017, The New York Times
The Justice Department on Thursday released a single redacted page from Attorney General Jeff Session’s [sic] security clearance form from November that indicated he had not had any contact with a foreign government official in the past seven years.
That contradicts his later admission that he had met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, twice last year. At the time, Sessions was a U.S. senator and an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The meetings occurred in July and September….
The watchdog group American Oversight, whose lawsuit forced the disclosure of the form, said that FBI investigators should have been told about the meetings. The group learned Thursday in court that the bureau did not turn up the information on its own.
See Attorney General Session’s SF-86 here.
Ethics group sues for Trump International Hotel records ahead of Republican Party fundraiser
Celeste Katz – June 28, 2017, Mic
Wednesday night’s big GOP dinner has President Donald Trump’s name all over it — and ethics watchdogs have a problem with that.
As Trump prepares to attend a major fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, American Oversight, a non-partisan accountability group, announced it’s suing “to force the release of communications between the Trump Organization and the government agency that manages the taxpayer-owned building.
American Oversight, which is run by Democratic former government officials, filed suit in federal court against the General Services Administration for information it requested, but didn’t get, under the Freedom of Information Act.
See our lawsuit against GSA regarding the Trump hotel lease here.
Group sues to access details of President Donald Trump’s border wall
Ryan Santistevan – June 16, 2017, Arizona Republic
Two years ago this week, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president and declared what would become a signature campaign promise: that he would “build a great wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border.
A non-partisan ethics watchdog group is marking that anniversary with a lawsuit against multiple federal agencies seeking details about the proposed border wall.
American Oversight’s lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, accuses the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protections, the Department of Interior and Office of Management and Budget of not responding to a dozen of its requests for information under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
See our Audit the Wall investigation and lawsuits here.
Homeland Security Hires Anti-Islam Activist Katharine Gorka as Trump Makes Overtures to Muslim States
Alex Emmons – May 23, 2017, The Intercept
Katharine Gorka, a controversial national security analyst and anti-Muslim activist, has been named as an “adviser” to the Department of Homeland Security’s policy office, after serving on President Trump’s transition team for the department. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Gorka extensively criticized DHS for teaching employees — wrongly, in her view — that Islam is a religion of peace.
Gorka’s appointment is listed in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the watchdog group American Oversight. Her title, as of April 7, is listed as adviser to the department’s office of policy. The documents also list a previous “temporary transitional” appointment in the chief of staff’s office, with a pay grade listed as GS-15, the highest standard pay for a federal civil servant, indicating a salary of at least $8,600 a month.
See DHS resumes we obtained, including Gorka’s resume here.
Trump’s Wiretap Tweets Bring Lawsuit Seeking Proof
Peter Overby – April 19, 2017, NPR
American Oversight is demanding records that support or disprove Trump’s March 4 tweet, “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower.”
Austin Evers, the group’s director, told NPR, “We can get a straight, factual answer in the courts, by asking an unspinnable question: Do you have records to support the president’s tweets?”
Concerned by the shortage of government experience and early missteps by Trump administration officials —including President Trump — a group of lawyers is launching a watchdog organization that will seek to track the administration’s ethics and expose potential conflicts, fraud or other wrongdoing….
“We were very troubled to see in the wake of the election all the red flags going up about how this executive branch was going to be run, and how Congress was reacting, which was essentially to put its head in the sand or only act when really forced to do so over egregious matters,” said, Austin Evers, a State Department lawyer under Obama and now executive director of American Oversight.
See our complete set of documents and investigations here.