Preservation of White House Communications
Last week, the National Security Archive, the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and two other groups representing historians sued President Donald Trump and the White House to ensure the preservation of official White House records. Previous accounts of key officials’ using private communication channels for government business have not only raised questions about the administration’s compliance with record preservation laws, but have also led some political commentators and lawmakers to speculate that the administration could potentially destroy records in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency. In November, we launched our own investigation into the administration’s compliance with such laws, and last week, to ensure those records are preserved, we filed additional FOIA requests with multiple agencies for officials’ communications with the White House.
Deputized Portland Police
In late September, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in anticipation of a rally planned by the Proud Boys, a far-right hate group known for inciting violence at demonstrations. In preparation for the rally, the U.S. Marshals Service deputized 56 members of the Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team, granting them federal law enforcement protections. It was announced after the rally ended that the deputations would extend to the end of 2020 despite objections from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and concerns about the potential involvement of federal prosecutors, such as the recent charges against a protester for allegedly assaulting a deputized officer with an umbrella. Portland lawmakers officially withdrew the city’s consent to the deputations in early October, but the Justice Department refused to end the designation. We filed records requests with the Portland Police Bureau for directives, documentation, and communications regarding the deputation of the officers.
Covid-19 Assessments in States with No Mask Mandate
As of Tuesday, there have been more than 285,000 deaths in the United States attributed to the coronavirus. Despite this, some governors have refused to impose mask mandates to slow the spread of the pandemic. We filed records requests in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Oklahoma for records reflecting assessments and reports concerning the impact of mask mandates on statewide Covid-19 cases to learn more about state preparations for stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump Aide Banned from DOJ While Pursuing Sensitive Election Intel
According to news reports, Justice Department White House Liaison Heidi Stirrup was recently banned from the building after attempting to access sensitive information about ongoing cases into supposed election fraud. Reportedly, Stirrup had been offering top Justice Department jobs to Trump allies without conferring with the agency, and pressured officials to disclose sensitive information about the department’s work on election irregularities, possibly with the intent to share it with the White House. We filed FOIA requests for Stirrup’s communications, calendars, and text messages.
Georgia Official’s Contacts with Trump’s Former Census Pick
We recently obtained calendar records that show Georgia’s deputy elections director had phone calls with Texas professor Thomas Brunell, the author of the controversial book Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America. In 2017, Brunell was Trump’s top pick for director of the U.S. Census Bureau, a job he ultimately didn’t get after critics raised alarm. Brunell has since defended the Trump administration’s push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a decision that experts said would have led to an undercount of minority populations. We sent records requests to the Georgia and Texas secretaries of state for records of any communications with Brunell.
Discredited Crime Researcher Joins DOJ Office
The Office of Justice Programs at the Justice Department recently hired John Lott — an economist and gun advocate known for his dubious research that argues widespread gun ownership can reduce crime — as a senior adviser for research and statistics. The role could allow Lott to influence the crime data that is produced by the department and released to the public. We filed FOIA requests to the Office of Justice Programs for records related to Lott and his hiring.
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