Here’s a look at the investigations our team has been pursuing through public records requests in the last week:
TSA Coronavirus Safety Precautions: Last week, the Washington Post reported that more than a thousand TSA employees had tested positive for the coronavirus. The figures reflect previous reports that the agency is failing to protect airport workers and travelers, including a whistleblower complaint that personal protective equipment was withheld from employees. We filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the TSA for directives and email communications concerning the Covid-19 safety precautions implemented at airports.
Covid-19 Detainee Deaths in DHS Facilities: Detainees in DHS facilities remain especially vulnerable to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, given their limited access to health care and medical supplies. On Monday, it was reported that a third Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee had died over the weekend from Covid-19, and more than 3,180 people have tested positive for the virus while in ICE custody. We filed multiple FOIA requests with DHS for records to shed light on the deaths occurring in DHS facilities.
Military Equipment Requests from Local Law Enforcement: Since August 2017, law enforcement agencies across the country have obtained at least $760 million worth of military equipment from the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, which allows the military to give surplus supplies (including weapons, medical equipment, and armored vehicles) to local law enforcement that have met requirements, such as training measures and obtaining permission from their local governments. We filed FOIA requests with the Defense Department for records that show which law enforcement agencies are prohibited from receiving surplus military equipment under the program, and which equipment requests have been denied.
DOJ Trump Interviews About Epstein: Convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein was known for his connections to wealthy public figures — including Donald Trump. Reportedly, Trump and Epstein maintained a friendship during the 1990s until they had a falling-out in the early 2000s. We filed a FOIA request with the Justice Department for any interviews with Trump that may have been conducted as part of the government’s investigation into crimes committed by Epstein and his associates from 2006 to 2008.
Pompeo’s Elite Dinners on Taxpayers’ Dime: Among the many allegations of misconduct and misuse of taxpayer money that have arisen regarding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are the exclusive dinners he and his wife had been hosting since 2018. Attendees included political, media, and corporate figures, as well as right-leaning advocacy groups. As part of our investigation into Pompeo’s political ambitions and influence, we asked the CIA for records reflecting any similar events involving non-government attendees that he or Susan Pompeo hosted at agency facilities while he was CIA director.
Trump International Hotel on the Market: In October, the Trump Organization announced plans to sell the lease rights of the Trump International Hotel, which occupies federal property in Washington, D.C., sparking concerns that the president may inappropriately profit from the sale. The coronavirus pandemic has since stalled the sale. We filed requests with the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Justice Department for related records and communications.
Eric Blankenstein Misconduct: In March, House Democrats reported that while at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Eric Blankenstein had promised Wells Fargo that some of the bank’s misconduct would be settled privately without further fines. Blankenstein resigned from the agency in May 2019 after offensive blog posts he had written years before on hate crimes and racial slurs resurfaced. We asked CFPB and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where Blankenstein currently works as an executive at Ginnie Mae, for his communications with non-government entities, including with large financial institutions.
Loyalty Purges: As part of our investigation into Trump’s post-impeachment purges, we’ve been filing FOIA requests with various agencies about former Office of Personnel Management Director Dale Cabaniss. Cabaniss resigned in March reportedly due to “poor treatment” by John McEntee, the head of the Presidential Personnel Office who has been working to root out officials perceived to be insufficiently loyal to the president. Last week, we filed a request with HUD for the communications of senior official and Trump supporter John Gibbs, who is expected to succeed Cabaniss as OPM director.
William Barr’s Firing of New York Prosecutor: Attorney General William Barr has taken a number of actions that raise serious questions about whether his commitment to the president’s political interests supersede his commitment to justice and the rule of law. The latest instance was his bungled June 20 firing of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, an office that has been involved in investigating a number of the president’s associates, including Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani. We filed requests with the Justice Department for records of communications, including with the White House, about such politically sensitive investigations.
Trump’s Personal Voter ‘Fraud’: As the president continued to rail about the dangers of absentee voter fraud — claims that, it bears repeating, are unsubstantiated — the Washington Post reported last month that Trump had originally attempted to register to vote in Florida using an out-of-state address (specifically, the White House). We filed a request for the communications of election officials in Palm Beach County, where Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is located, related to Trump’s voter registration.
Part of Investigation: