Here’s a look at the investigations our team has been pursuing through records requests in the last week:
Trump’s Potential Supreme Court Nominees
This weekend, after Senate Republican leadership said it would move forward with filling the Supreme Court vacancy before the election (against the wishes of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), we launched an investigation into President Donald Trump’s potential Supreme Court nominees, filing more than a dozen records requests to multiple state and federal agencies. We’ve requested documents that may shed light on the backgrounds and legal perspectives of those on the short list, including Amy Coney Barrett, Britt Grant, and Barbara Lagoa — all federal judges appointed to their current seats by the president — as well as Deputy White House Counsel Kate Todd. Among those requests are some sent to Florida, where Lagoa is a federal judge, and Georgia, where Grant is a judge and former solicitor general. You can read more about what we’re seeking here, and about what we already have requested here.
Kentucky Ballot Integrity Task Force Lawsuit
In July, as part of our ongoing investigation into state election fraud task forces’ potential to undermine confidence in elections, we filed records requests with the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General for documents and communications related to the state’s Ballot Integrity Task Force. On Tuesday, we sued the Kentucky attorney general for failing to release the records.
Revised CDC Covid-19 Guidelines
On Monday, the CDC removed from its website updated guidance concerning the spread of the Covid-19. The guidance (which had been posted last Friday) emphasized the airborne nature of the coronavirus. Political appointees have interfered with CDC Covid-19 guidance in the past, so we’ve filed FOIA requests to the Department of Health and Health Services for email communications about changes to the coronavirus guidelines.
Political Influence at the FDA
Recent weeks have seen rising concerns about the potential politicization of the Food and Drug Administration, particularly surrounding the FDA’s decision to issue an emergency authorization for the use of convalescent plasma for the treatment of Covid-19 following sustained pressure from the White House. We filed FOIA requests with HHS, the FDA, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for email communications regarding convalescent plasma treatment.
Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution
This summer, the CDC contracted management company Deloitte Consulting LLC and health-care company McKesson Corporation for the tracking and distribution, respectively, of any Covid-19 vaccines. We filed FOIA requests with HHS and the Defense Department for records concerning vaccine distribution plans facilitated by Deloitte and McKesson, including copies of contracts, directives, and assessments.
Investigating Michael Caputo
In April, the White House installed Michael Caputo as HHS assistant secretary of public affairs, a move reportedly designed to assert more White House control over HHS. After assuming office, Caputo sought to interfere with the CDC’s crucial scientific Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, influenced when government scientists appear on television, and spread conspiracy theories on social media. We filed FOIA requests with HHS for Caputo’s resume, ethics records, calendars, and emails, which have the potential to shed light on the role Caputo, who last week announced a leave of absence from the agency, has had in shaping the government’s response.
Investigating DeJoy and USPS
Last week, the Washington Post reported on nearly 10,000 pages of Postal Service documents we obtained through FOIA. The records revealed USPS had a plan to send five masks to every household (the plan never came to fruition) and that the Treasury Department had attempted to take control over USPS operations. We also sued USPS for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s emails related to USPS’s vote-by-mail efforts. Finally, we filed a new FOIA request with USPS for the file created for DeJoy in advance of his meeting on voting by mail, which took place around July 17, as well as any records that reflect the content of that meeting.
Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections
Foreign interference remains a huge threat to this year’s presidential election, a threat that is all the more alarming because of the Trump administration’s own reported solicitations of it. The New York Times reported in July that Todd Chapman, the ambassador to Brazil, conveyed to Brazillian officials that their lifting of ethanol tariffs could help Trump’s popularity in swing states where ethanol is a major export. And former National Security Adviser John Bolton alleged that Trump spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about how China’s soybean purchases could sway the election in Trump’s favor. We filed requests to multiple agencies for communications regarding support from China or Brazil for Trump’s re-election.
Voters faced long lines and other major operational issues during Georgia’s June 9 primary, causing significant delays in tallying the results. Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s chief operating officer and voting implementation manager, criticized the training poll workers received, saying that it contributed to a “perfect storm” of operational issues. We filed a records request to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office for communications sent by Sterling in June. We also filed records requests in multiple counties for guidance documents and procedures regarding language assistance for non-English-speaking voters.
Part of Investigation: