Here’s a look at the investigations our team has been pursuing through public records requests in the last week:
Trump Administration Hatch Act Violations
On Monday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) opened a case file in response to our complaint against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over his rush to release the emails of former Secretary Hillary Clinton before the upcoming election. This isn’t the first time concerns have been raised about the secretary’s potential Hatch Act violations: A speech prerecorded by Pompeo while on official travel in Israel was broadcast during this summer’s Republican convention.
Over the past week, we filed the following FOIA requests concerning potential Hatch Act violations and possible misuse of government resources at the political convention supporting President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign:
Covid-19 Vaccine Development Contracts
As of Tuesday, there have been more than 8.2 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 220,000 related deaths in the United States, according to the New York Times. Critics have said the Trump administration’s rush for a vaccine has come at the expense of important transparency and regulatory oversight measures, and there is little clarity about the expected cost. We partnered with Lower Drug Prices Now and Accountable Pharma to file FOIA requests to multiple agencies for records reflecting the terms of Covid-19 development contracts made with pharmaceutical companies like Novavax, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.
DHS and DOJ Task Forces
During an Aug. 31 interview, Fox News host Tucker Carlson asked acting Secretary Wolf, “Why haven’t we seen the leaders of Antifa or [Black Lives Matter] arrested and charged for conspiracy?” Wolf responded that he’d talked with Attorney General William Barr and that the Justice Department was “working on it.” In early July, DHS had announced the formation of a task force for protecting monuments and statues, a week after the Justice Department had created a task force dedicated to countering “anti-government extremists.” We filed FOIA requests for records regarding these task forces to learn whether and to what extent the two agencies are working together on the issue.
Trump’s Response to California Wildfires
During the recent presidential debate on Sept. 29, Trump said that every year he has received a phone call telling him “California’s burning,” and indicated that the state’s forest management was to blame. Trump made similar claims during wildfire emergencies in 2018 and 2019, and tweeted in 2019 that he would withhold Federal Emergency Management Agency aid if California did not “get their act together.” We filed FOIA requests to the Department of the Interior for agency communications with the White House regarding California’s forest fires.
Counting People Living at Shelters in the Census
Last month, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter of concern to the Census Bureau about operational changes made to how census workers counted people at domestic violence shelters, soup kitchens, and other transitional living s locations. These changes could hinder the Census Bureau’s ability to accurately count individuals for the 2020 census — we filed a FOIA request for related records, assessments, and directives.
Electoral College Appointments
Recent reporting indicates that top state officials, including Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, have discussed the possibility of directly appointing delegates to the Electoral College in the event of a delay in election results, potentially leading to an outcome in which a presidential candidate could gain a state’s delegates without definitively winning a plurality of that state’s votes. We filed records requests in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin for communications containing key terms concerning the Electoral College.
Incorrect Instructions on South Carolina Absentee Ballots
On Oct. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the requirement that South Carolina absentee ballots have a witness signature, with very few exceptions. At least one South Carolina county — Georgetown County — has sent absentee ballots both before and after the court ruling with instructions that no witness signature was required. We filed records requests with Georgetown County officials and the South Carolina Election Commission for directives related to these ballots with incorrect information.
Part of Investigation: