Here’s a look at the investigations our team has been pursuing through public records requests in the last week:
The Expansion of Operation Legend: The Trump administration’s efforts under the purview of “Operation Legend,” which deployed federal law enforcement to support local police forces in fighting violent crime, have been highly criticized. Though initially carried out in Kansas City, Operation Legend has since expanded to multiple cities — including, as many have pointed out, cities in pivotal swing states. We filed FOIA requests in Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wisconsin for records of state and local officials’ communications with White House officials concerning these deployments and other federal actions under Operation Legend.
School Reopenings During Pandemic: Despite the lack of federal strategy to combat the spread of Covid-19 infections, President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos repeatedly pushed for schools to reopen — even having threatened financial repercussions for schools that didn’t comply. As of this week, only six states have state-wide school closures or delays in effect, and a growing number of schools have been forced to close just days after reopening due to Covid-19 cases among students. We filed FOIA requests with the Education Department for records relating to school reopenings, including data, analyses, and communications.
The Rush for a Vaccine: Recently, a report emerged that state officials are contacting hospitals about distributing a coronavirus vaccine as early as November, and the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed effort is pushing for a distribution system to be ready by November 1. In light of concerns that the administration is politicizing such projects and could force the rollout of a vaccine before it’s fully tested, we filed records requests in Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin for state health officials’ communications with federal agencies about plans concerning a vaccine. We also filed FOIA requests with the Department of Health and Human Services for high-ranking officials’ text messages regarding the response to the pandemic.
Partisan FBI Responses to Congressional Investigation Requests: Earlier this month, Sen. Ron Wyden wrote a letter to the FBI outlining concerns about the bureau’s responses to congressional inquiries about “Crossfire Hurricane,” the code name given to the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Wyden alleged that the bureau was prioritizing Republican committee members’ records requests and giving selective access to documents on a partisan basis. We filed FOIA requests with the FBI for communications and directives related to congressional requests about Crossfire Hurricane.
Ratcliffe’s Decision Memos and Communications: Since his confirmation as director of national intelligence in May, John Ratcliffe has issued multiple controversial decisions concerning politically sensitive issues. Most recently, Ratcliffe announced the suspension of in-person election security briefings to Congress, which will impact the ability of members of Congress to ask questions about the threat of foreign interference in U.S. elections. We sent FOIA requests to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for copies of Ratcliffe’s decision memos and communications. We also asked for the ethics documents of ODNI employees who have joined or changed positions within the agency since late May.
Political Influence on the USPS Board of Governors: Well before the administration’s recent changes at the Postal Service, Trump had appointed his own loyalists to the USPS Board of Governors, which plays an important role in shaping the agency’s financial agenda. “After years without a voting quorum, Trump was able to reshape the once-obscure Postal Service Board of Governors in three years into a behind-the-scenes powerhouse that is setting his priorities in motion, possibly for years to come,” wrote the Washington Post last month. We filed FOIA requests with USPS for the communications of the members of the board.
State Accountability Project: The November presidential election is fast approaching, and we continue to investigate threats against voting rights at the state level. As part of our investigation into voter intimidation through state election fraud task forces, we recently filed FOIA requests with the Department of Homeland Security and USPS for records related to Kentucky’s Ballot Integrity Task Force, and we also filed records requests in Georgia for polling place data.
Part of Investigation: