When Did the Administration First Know Covid-19 Was Airborne?
In recently released recordings of a conversation on Feb. 7, 2020, President Donald Trump told journalist Bob Woodward that the novel coronavirus was a highly contagious airborne virus. At the time of the conversation — and for many weeks after — the administration did not recommend that the general public wear facemasks, and it wasn’t until early April that the CDC recommended them. And Postal Service records obtained by American Oversight show that there was once a plan to send masks to all U.S. households — that is, until the White House scrapped it, according to the Washington Post. Woodward also reported that the administration actively worked to downplay the danger of coronavirus, while Trump has since made false claims that “everyone knew” Covid-19 was airborne at that time. We filed FOIA requests with multiple agencies for records and communications dated Feb. 7 or earlier concerning information about the airborne transmission of the coronavirus.
Safety Measures at Meat-Processing Plants
Workers at meat-processing plants have been particularly vulnerable to contracting Covid-19. As of Sept. 13, more than 200 meat-plant workers in the U.S. have died from the virus, and processing facilities have become coronavirus “hotbeds” due to poor working conditions and inadequate sick leave policies. Recent reporting, including based on documents we obtained, illustrates the extensive contact between Agriculture Department officials and meat industry representatives regarding the reduction of testing and other safety measures. We filed FOIA requests to the USDA for communications with select non-governmental entities, and for communications with several local governments that have a meat-processing plant in their community.
NIH Official’s Double Life as Editor for Far-Right Website
Last week, the Daily Beast reported that Bill Crews, a public relations official at the National Institutes of Health, was secretly working as a managing editor at the conservative website RedState. On RedState, Crews (who is reportedly retiring from the NIH) wrote under a pseudonym to make scathing attacks against other officials tasked with combating the Covid-19 pandemic. We filed FOIA requests to the NIH and the Department of Health and Human Services for Crews’ email communications.
CDC’s Revised Testing Guidelines
In late August, the CDC revised its coronavirus guidelines to advise that individuals with no symptoms did not need to get tested — even if they had been exposed to someone with Covid-19. Subsequent reporting revealed that top officials in the administration made these revisions, despite objections from experts. Earlier this month, the CDC reversed the changes and now advises that those previously in contact with someone who had Covid-19 should get tested, regardless of symptoms. We filed FOIA requests with multiple HHS subagencies for communications and talking points regarding the CDC’s testing guidelines.
Amy Coney Barrett
Over the weekend, the president announced his intention of nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We had previously filed a FOIA request for communications regarding her 2017 nomination to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In acknowledging our FOIA, the Justice Department denied our request that the records be processed on an expedited basis, citing the fact that Barrett wasn’t at that time the nominee. We’ve renewed our request for expedition.
Influence and Access at the U.S. Agency for Global Media
The Open Technology Fund (OTF), a nonprofit organization supporting internet freedom, has recently been at odds with its parent entity, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). In June, the fund’s CEO, Libby Liu, resigned over lobbying efforts to redirect OTF resources toward supporting closed-source tools (instead of the open-sourced projects OTF usually sponsors). We filed FOIA requests to the State Department and USAGM for related communications.
Voting by Mail ‘Election Fraud’ Risks
Attorney General William Barr has publicly warned about the supposed dangers of voting by mail, claiming the practice heightens the risk of electoral fraud, even using false stories to back up the alarmism. We want to know more about the Justice Department’s understanding of voting by mail risks and filed FOIA requests with the agency for communications concerning electoral fraud, including with voting-restriction advocates.
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