Here’s a look at the investigations our team has been pursuing through public records requests in the last week:
DHS Protest-Related Intelligence and Tactics: On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee launched an investigation into the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence operations with regard to the response to nationwide protests. The presence of federal officers in several U.S. cities such as Portland, Seattle, and Kansas City has raised concerns about DHS’s surveillance tactics, the use of excessive force against protesters, and officials’ having referred to demonstrators as “violent antifa anarchist inspired.” We filed FOIA requests with DHS for related directives and data assessments, emails about the protests, decision memos and correspondence of high-ranking officials, and protest-related complaints submitted to DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Justice Department Email Communications with Police Unions: Questions have arisen about coordination between federal agencies and local police, especially in light of a meeting between a Portland police union and federal officials without the presence of key city leaders. We filed a FOIA request with the Justice Department for email communications with police unions and organizations.
New Lawsuit for Records Showing Covid-19 Impact on 2020 Census: Last week, we sued the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce for records related to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the implementation of the 2020 census, which remains a target of the Trump administration’s attempts to engineer the decennial congressional reapportionment for its political benefit. We also followed up with more FOIA requests to the Census Bureau for coronavirus-related communications with external entities.
Questions about Potential Chao-McConnell Coordination on Kentucky Covid-19 Aid: Documents uncovered by American Oversight last year revealed that the office of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao had created a “special path” for meeting requests involving Kentucky, the home state of her and her husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell. Records also suggested that McConnell’s office had coordinated with the Transportation Department on state-specific grants in the past. In April, McConnell announced that Kentucky airports would receive more than $77 million in pandemic relief funds from the CARES Act. We filed a FOIA request with the Department of Transportation for communications related to those funds.
Investigating the State Department’s (Now Formerly) New Inspector General: Early on Wednesday, news broke that the State Department’s acting inspector general, Stephen Akard, was resigning. Trump had selected him in May after firing Steve Linick, who had reportedly been investigating alleged misconduct by Secretary Mike Pompeo. Akard was simultaneously serving as acting inspector general and director of the Office of Foreign Missions, the position he held before his appointment, worrying agency officials about potential conflicts of interest. We filed FOIA requests with the State Department for Akard’s decision memos, ethics documents, and communications concerning Linick’s removal. We also asked for the SF-50 forms for employees who have joined the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General since May 15, and for records that show the senior-most official charged with overseeing investigations from which Akard has recused himself.
Bannon Ally’s Purge at Voice of America: In June, Michael Pack — Trump’s controversial appointee to head the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) — ousted a number of top agency executives in what one former official called a “Wednesday night massacre.” Critics are worried about the politicization of USAGM, which oversees Voice of America and has long remained an independent federal agency meant to counter disinformation without partisan interference. We filed several requests with the agency for communications of specific officials, as well as guidance documents, ethics records, and calendar entries of officials recently installed by Pack.
Politicization of National Intelligence: In February, news reporting suggested that Trump removed Joseph Maguire as acting director of national intelligence after learning that Maguire briefed Congress on the continued threat of Russian interference in the 2020 elections. Trump loyalist Richard Grenell was then temporarily appointed to the role of the nation’s chief intelligence officer, despite having no experience in intelligence work. Grenell brought on Kash Patel, a National Security Council official who, while working for Rep. Devin Nunes, worked to discredit the Russia probe. We filed FOIA requests for Grenell’s and Patel’s communications, decision memos, and calendars.
Voting-Restrictionist Influence in Elections: Recently, Election Assistance Commissioners Christy McCormick and Don Palmer participated in the “Red, White & True News” podcast put out by the voting-restriction advocacy group True the Vote. We filed a FOIA request with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for the agency’s communications with True the Vote, and, as part of our ongoing investigation into state government contacts with voting-restriction activists, we filed similar records requests for Arizona and Georgia officials’ communications with the group.
Part of Investigation: