Efforts to Undermine the 2020 Election Results

The Jan. 6, 2021, mob attack on the U.S. Capitol was a direct result of former President Trump's incitement and refusal to acknowledge the results of the 2020 election, but he has not been the only one fanning the flames of conspiracy theories and social unrest. American Oversight seeks to shed light on ways federal and state officials abetted his efforts by promoting baseless claims of voter fraud to undermine the election’s legitimacy — and the next administration.

Despite Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump continued to make baseless claims of voter fraud in an apparent attempt to undermine the results and the will of the American people. American Oversight is investigating actions by local and federal officials that promoted these unfounded allegations and in the process impeded democracy.

Major news outlets projected Biden as the winner less than a week after the election, and the result has been confirmed by multiple state audits, the Electoral College, and Congress. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) posted a statement from election officials and private-sector partners on Nov. 12 announcing that the 2020 election “was the most secure in American history” and that there “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” On Nov. 17, CISA chief Chris Krebs shared a link on his official Twitter account to a separate letter from dozens of outside election security experts denouncing false claims of fraud. Trump fired Krebs in a tweet that evening, prompting Krebs’ deputy, Matthew Travis, to resign.

But the voter-fraud fear-mongering hasn’t just been coming from the White House. Just a few days after Biden was projected as the winner, then-Attorney General William Barr issued a memo that authorized federal prosecutors to pursue any “substantial allegations” of election irregularities — in apparent support of Trump’s unfounded claims. The directive, a departure from longstanding Justice Department policy prohibiting such overt investigations before official election results are certified, drew fierce criticism from career prosecutors

Barr’s promotion of false claims about the dangers of voting by mail in the month before the election also drew scrutiny. We submitted Freedom of Information Act requests seeking directives about election fraud investigation sent to U.S. attorneys in the run-up to and the immediate days after the election. We’re also seeking Justice Department officials’ communications with external entities about such investigations, including with conservative legal activist Leonard Leo.

American Oversight is also keeping an eye on state-level election interference. We submitted requests to the offices of select state legislators in Wisconsin and Arizona who have called for investigations — also without evidence of serious irregularities — into their states’ election results. We’re seeking those legislators’ communications with Trump’s reelection campaign and legal team, the White House, Senate Republicans, and voting-restriction groups such as the Public Interest Legal Foundation. We’ve also filed a records request with Georgia’s secretary of state for post-election communications between state officials and voting-restriction activists.

American Oversight has long been looking into potential attempts to undermine election confidence through our State Accountability Project, investigating the efforts of anti-voter organizations and state fraud “task forces” that do more to promote false narratives about fraud than they do to promote democratic participation. Our legal efforts on this front compelled Georgia to release thousands of pages of related records, and other litigation is ongoing.

Efforts to cast doubt on the election results not only defy democratic norms that are the bedrock of our system; they threaten its continued operation by delaying a lawful transition of power. We will continue to hold public officials accountable and demand transparency during this unprecedented period of electoral obstructionism.

Updates

News Roundup: The Jan. 6 Attack and the Big Lie

May 13, 2021
Top officials testified this week in a hearing about the deadly Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, one of the most glaring consequences of the stolen election lie.

News Roundup: What’s Going On in Arizona?

April 30, 2021
Conspiracy theorists, former President Trump himself, and supporters of his lie that the election was stolen continue to cling to the “audit” in Maricopa County as another potential way to overturn the vote.

American Oversight Sues Justice Department for Records of Efforts to Overturn Election

April 20, 2021
The lawsuit seeks details about the attempt to install a Trump loyalist as acting attorney general during the final days of the Trump administration.

Arizona Attorney General Calendar Released to American Oversight Excludes Jan. 6

March 26, 2021
Documents obtained in response to an open records request include calendar entries from October 2020 to March 2021, but skips over Jan. 6 — the day of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. (This article has been updated with Arizona's response.)

News Roundup: The Big Lie Becomes Big Policy

March 25, 2021
The sheer number of voting-restriction bills currently floating in state legislatures makes it hard to keep track of where each proposal stands. But they all point to the fact that conservative leaders and fundraisers have increasingly adopted such restrictions as a primary policy position.

News Roundup: The Lie Lives On

March 4, 2021
This week, we obtained copies of phony electoral vote certifications and DHS records from the day of the Jan. 6 attack, and the Transportation Department released a report on former Secretary Chao’s misuse of her position.

American Oversight Obtains Seven Phony Certificates of Pro-Trump Electors

March 2, 2021
The phony electoral vote certificates from seven states were submitted to Congress as part of the failed attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Investigations Update: Texas Energy Crisis, Covid-19 in Poultry Plants, and New Legislation in Missouri

February 23, 2021
See the latest in our investigations into the recent power outage in Texas, industry influence over the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, and Missouri legislation that protects drivers who hit protesters with their cars.

News Roundup: Power Failures and Power Plays

February 18, 2021
Severe winter weather swept across the nation this week, wiping out power for millions. And several states unleashed a new wave of voting-restriction measures.

Investigations Update: Florida Vaccine Distribution, Anti-Protest Measures, and Trump’s Efforts to Overturn Georgia’s Election Results

February 9, 2021
See the latest in our investigations into the coronavirus pandemic response and into officials’ attempts to interfere with democracy.

Investigations Update: The Efforts by Trump — and Top Officials — to Overturn the Election

February 2, 2021
See the latest in our investigations into Trump’s efforts to overturn the presidential election and multiple state lawmakers’ ties to the Capitol attack.

News Roundup: Looking Ahead

January 22, 2021
The anti-democratic forces that brought Trump to office remain a serious threat at all levels of government.

Investigations Update: West Virginia Lawmaker’s Involvement in Capitol Attack and Trump’s Attempts to Overturn Georgia Election Results

January 19, 2021
See the latest in our investigations of the security at the U.S. Capitol, DOJ’s opioid settlement with Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, and the “burrowing in” of Trump political appointees.

DHS Claims No Records of Communications with White House About Firing of CISA Director Chris Krebs

January 19, 2021
Krebs was fired in November after his office pushed back on the president’s false claims of a stolen election.

News Roundup: Heightened Security, Unanswered Questions, and a Twice-Impeached President

January 14, 2021
The Trump administration may be ending in less than a week, but the work of protecting our democracy will continue.

Investigations Update: The Attack on the Capitol, Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Resignation, and White House Meeting with State Attorneys General

January 13, 2021
Summary: See the latest in our investigations of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, the resignation of U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak, and states’ responses to the pandemic.

News Roundup: A Dark Day

January 7, 2021
Wednesday’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol was a frightening and astounding display of violence instigated by the president himself.

American Oversight Statement on Trump-Incited Mob Attack on Capitol

January 7, 2021
Every moment President Trump remains in power is a threat to our democracy and our nation.

Investigations Update: Trump’s Election-Stealing Efforts in Georgia, DeJoy’s Communications, and Giroir’s Covid-19 Text Messages

January 5, 2021
See the latest in our investigations into voter suppression in Georgia, the president’s efforts to overturn election results, and the postmaster general’s communications.

American Oversight Demands Records of Raffensperger, Kemp Communications with White House and Trump Lawyers

January 5, 2021
Following news of the president’s alarming call with Georgia’s secretary of state, we’re investigating Trump’s efforts to pressure state officials to overturn election result

Open Questions About President Trump’s Abuses of Office

December 28, 2020
Trump’s time as president was defined by multiple financial conflicts of interest and unprecedented abuses of power that touched nearly every aspect of public life — and there’s still a lot the American public needs to know.

Investigations Update: Preservation of White House Communications, Federally Deputized Portland Police, Trump Aide Banned from DOJ

December 8, 2020
See the latest in our investigations into the Trump administration’s compliance with document preservation laws, law enforcement’s response to social unrest, and Covid-19 precautions at the state level.

Investigations Update: Krebs’ Firing, Federal Record Preservation Laws, and Trump’s Contacts with Michigan Officials

November 24, 2020
See the latest in our investigations into the presidential transition process, the Trump administration’s compliance with document preservation laws, and false claims of widespread voter fraud.

Investigating the Firing of Key Election Security Official Who Defied Trump

November 23, 2020
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs was ousted after vouching for the security of the 2020 election — we’re seeking records about how it went down.

Investigations Update: ‘Sharpiegate,’ the Census, and Barr’s ‘Voter Fraud’ Investigations

November 17, 2020
See the latest in our investigations of the Justice Department’s voter fraud probes, the rush to finish the census, and criminal charges against protesters.

News Roundup: Trump’s Warped Priorities

November 12, 2020
As the nation rapidly approaches a quarter of a million deaths, President Trump is consumed with delegitimizing the election by pushing dangerous and unfounded claims about voter fraud.

American Oversight Launches Investigation into Wisconsin, Arizona Officials Repeating Trump Campaign’s Voter Fraud Allegations

November 12, 2020
None of these officials, nor the Trump campaign or the RNC, have provided any evidence to support these claims.

State and Local Officials’ Communications with Voting-Restriction Activists and Groups

November 5, 2020
False claims of widespread voter fraud have been given unearned amplification not just by the president, but by right-wing groups working on the ground in various states to convert those false claims into voting restrictions and overzealous voter-roll purges.
Show all updates

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December 4, 2020

Records Request to Iowa Governor’s Office Regarding Mask Mandate Impact on Covid-19 Spread

Iowa Office of the Governor
FOIA Request
December 4, 2020

Records Request to Iowa Department of Public Health Regarding Mask Mandate Impact on Covid-19 Spread

Iowa Department of Public Health
FOIA Request
December 4, 2020

Records Request to Oklahoma Governor’s Office Seeking Assessments Regarding Support for Public Health Measures

Oklahoma Office of the Governor
FOIA Request
December 4, 2020

Records Request to Oklahoma Governor’s Office Regarding Mask Mandate Impact on Covid-19 Spread

Oklahoma Office of the Governor
FOIA Request
December 4, 2020

Records Request to Oklahoma State Department of Health Regarding Mask Mandate Impact on Covid-19 Spread

Oklahoma Department of Health
FOIA Request
December 3, 2020

Records Request to Florida Governor Regarding Meeting About Coronavirus Vaccine

Florida Office of the Governor
FOIA Request
December 3, 2020

Records Request to Oklahoma Governor Regarding Meeting About Coronavirus Vaccines

Oklahoma Office of the Governor
FOIA Request
November 24, 2020

Records Request to Luzerne County, Pa., Seeking Emails with External Entities

Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania - Luzerne County
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

FOIA to OMB Seeking Records Related to Leave Taken by Camilo Sandoval to Aid Voter-Fraud Discovery Efforts

White House - Office of Management and Budget
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

FOIA to DOI Seeking Records Related to Leave Taken by Thomas Baptiste to Aid Voter-Fraud Discovery Efforts

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

Records Request to Georgia Department of Law for Communications with Georgia GOP, White House, Trump Campaign, and RNC

Georgia Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

Records Request to Nevada Secretary of State for Communications with Georgia GOP, White House, Trump Campaign, and RNC

Nevada Secretary of State
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

Records Request to Georgia Secretary of State for Gabriel Sterling’s Gmail Messages

Georgia Secretary of State
FOIA Request
November 23, 2020

Records Request to Georgia Secretary of State for Guidelines Regarding Hand Recount Decision

Georgia Secretary of State
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Wayne County, Mich., Seeking Text Messages Between Board of Canvassers and External Entities

Michigan - Wayne County
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Texas Attorney General Seeking Communications with Voting-Restriction Activists or the Trump Campaign

Texas Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to South Dakota Attorney General Seeking Communications with Voting-Restriction Activists or the Trump Campaign

South Dakota Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to South Carolina Attorney General Seeking Communications with Voting-Restriction Activists or the Trump Campaign

South Carolina Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Ohio Attorney General Seeking Communications with Voting-Restriction Activists or the Trump Campaign

Ohio Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Missouri Attorney General Seeking Communications with Voting-Restriction Activists or the Trump Campaign

Missouri Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Louisiana Attorney General Seeking Communications with Voting-Restriction Activists or the Trump Campaign

Louisiana Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Kentucky Attorney General Seeking Communications with Voting-Restriction Activists or the Trump Campaign

Kentucky Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Georgia Attorney General Seeking AG Carr’s Texts with Other State Attorneys General and Pennsylvania GOP

Georgia Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Florida Attorney General Seeking Communications with Voting-Restriction Activists or the Trump Campaign

Florida Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Wayne County, Mich., Seeking Communications Between Board of Canvassers and External Entities

Michigan - Wayne County
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Wayne County, Mich., Seeking Records Reflecting Communications with President Trump

Michigan - Wayne County
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

Records Request to Georgia Secretary of State Seeking Communications with Republican National Committee, the Trump Campaign, and Affiliates

Georgia Secretary of State
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DHS Seeking Sent Communications Containing Key Terms Related to Immigration Press Conferences

Department of Homeland Security
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

Records Request to Coconino County, Ariz., Sheriff Seeking Communications About Chad Wolf Roundtable

Arizona - Coconino County
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

Records Request to Coconino County, Ariz., Sheriff Seeking Contents of Chad Wolf Roundtable

Arizona - Coconino County
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

Request to Georgia Secretary of State Seeking Directives Concerning Investigations into Potential Cases of Election Fraud or Enforcement of Election-Related Laws

Georgia Secretary of State
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

Request to Georgia Attorney General Seeking Directives Concerning Investigations into Potential Cases of Election Fraud or Enforcement of Election-Related Laws

Georgia Attorney General
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

Request to Gerogia Bureau of Investigation Seeking Directives Concerning Investigations into Potential Cases of Election Fraud or Enforcement of Election-Related Laws

Georgia Bureau of Investigation
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Election Fraud Communications

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Civil Rights Division Seeking Election Fraud Communications

Department of Justice, DOJ - Civil Rights Division
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Criminal Division Seeking Election Fraud Communications

Department of Justice, DOJ - Criminal Division
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Directives Concerning Election Fraud

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications with Sen. Lindsey Graham

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Civil Rights Division Seeking Communications with Sen. Lindsey Graham

Department of Justice, DOJ - Civil Rights Division
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Criminal Division Seeking Communications with Sen. Lindsey Graham

Department of Justice, DOJ - Criminal Division
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Texts with Sen. Lindsey Graham

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Civil Rights Seeking Texts with Sen. Lindsey Graham

Department of Justice, DOJ - Civil Rights Division
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Criminal Division Seeking Texts with Sen. Lindsey Graham

Department of Justice, DOJ - Criminal Division
FOIA Request
November 13, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Election Fraud Investigation Directives

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 13, 2020

FOIA to EOUSA Seeking Election Fraud Investigation Directives

Department of Justice, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys
FOIA Request
November 13, 2020

Records Request to Georgia Governor’s Office for Communications with White House or Trump Campaign

Georgia Office of the Governor
FOIA Request
November 13, 2020

Records Request to the Office of Arizona Rep. Townsend Seeking Text Messages Concerning “Sharpiegate” Conspiracy

Arizona House of Representatives
FOIA Request
November 12, 2020

Records Request to Georgia Secretary of State for Post-Election Communications with Voting-Restriction Groups

Georgia Secretary of State
FOIA Request
November 12, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Office of Attorney General’s Communications with External Entities

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 12, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Office of Public Affairs Seeking Communications with External Entities

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 12, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Civil Rights Division Seeking Communications with External Entities

Department of Justice, DOJ - Civil Rights Division
FOIA Request
November 12, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications with Specific External Entities

Department of Justice, DOJ - Criminal Division
FOIA Request
November 12, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications with Leonard Leo

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
November 10, 2020

Records Request to Wisconsin Rep. Tusler Seeking Communications with Election Authorities

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
November 10, 2020

Records Request to Wisconsin Rep. Tusler Seeking Communications with External Parties

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
November 10, 2020

Records Request to Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Vos Seeking Communications with Election Authorities

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
November 10, 2020

Records Request to Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Vos Seeking Communications with External Parties

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
November 10, 2020

Records Request to Arizona State Rep. Townsend for Communications with Trump Campaign, RNC, and Voting-Restriction Groups

Arizona House of Representatives
FOIA Request
October 23, 2020

USTR Communications Regarding Brazilian Assistance for Trump in U.S. Elections

White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Agency Record
September 9, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Summary Purportedly Underlying Attorney General’s Inaccurate Comments on Voter Fraud

Department of Justice, DOJ - Office of Information Policy
FOIA Request