Assessments of Threat Posed by Militia Groups
Thousands of National Guard troops have arrived in Washington, DC, in preparation for Wednesday’s presidential inauguration, which comes exactly two weeks after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building. Many questions still remain about the security protocols and processes in place ahead of the attack, and we’ve been investigating both federal and local responses to the violence. This past week, we filed records requests with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser for assessments and communications concerning the threat posed by militia or extremist groups in advance of Congress’ Jan. 6 election certification.
West Virginia Lawmaker Involved in Capitol Attack
Among the individuals charged for unlawful behavior during the Jan. 6 attack is Derrick Evans, a West Virginia lawmaker who has since resigned after it became known that he filmed himself storming the building with other rioters. To learn more about Evans’ planning for and involvement in the attack, we filed a records request to the West Virginia legislature for his communications containing related keywords.
Trump’s Election-Overturning Attempts in Georgia
Last week, the New York Times reported that prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., were considering opening a criminal investigation into President Donald Trump’s attempts to interfere in the 2020 election. News about a potential inquiry came a week after the Washington Post reported that Trump had called the state’s top elections investigator in December, telling the official, who was conducting an investigation into potential irregularities, to “find the fraud.” The call, which could amount to obstruction of justice, took place about a week before Trump’s infamous call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, in which he pushed for Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes.” That same week, according to the Wall Street Journal, a senior Justice Department official phoned Byung J. Pak, the U.S. attorney for Northern Georgia who was shortly replaced, to say that Trump was “furious” there was no investigation into voter fraud. We filed requests with Raffensperger’s office for records related to Trump’s call with the investigator, or any other similar calls. We also asked the Justice Department for records related to the call with Pak.
Florida Governor Communications with American Conservative Union
Last month, the American Conservative Union (ACU) announced plans to hold the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in person and mostly indoors at a hotel in Orlando, Fla., in late February. Last year’s conference, held in March, was the site of an early pandemic scare, when an attendee tested positive for the coronavirus after spending days at the convention. Florida was also for a time the new location for the 2020 Republican Convention, after officials in North Carolina, the original host, refused to budge on pandemic-related health restrictions. (Trump eventually scrapped that plan for the potentially Hatch Act-violating setting of the White House.) We sent a records request to the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for communications with representatives of the ACU.
Opioid Settlement Records with Purdue Pharma and Sackler Family
In October, the Justice Department announced that a settlement had been reached with Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family over civil and criminal investigations into their opioid distribution practices. Critics of the settlement, which is worth more than $8.3 billion, say that the agreement doesn’t account for the hundreds of thousands of opioid-related deaths linked to Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers. We sent a FOIA request to the Department of Justice for records regarding the agency’s settlement negotiations.
Secret Service Apprehension Data
This past summer, India Johnson and Yasmeen Winston, both Black women, took their children to visit the National Mall. Not long into the visit, they were confronted by Secret Service officers with guns drawn and were temporarily separated from their children without a clear explanation as to why. Johnson and Winston have since demanded that the Secret Service investigate the incident and publicly release related records. We filed FOIA requests to the U.S. Secret Service and the National Park Service for records that show arrests and detainments and include demographic data about those involved.
Secretary Bernhardt’s Assist for Massive Real-Estate Development
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt assumed his role in 2019 with an extensive list of potential conflicts of interest stemming from his past career as an industry lobbyist. Late last year, court filings from the Justice Department reportedly showed that while deputy secretary in August 2017, Bernhardt secretly met with the developer behind a planned 12,000-acre real-estate development near the San Pedro River in Arizona and was directly involved in the government’s decision to overturn a requirement for a thorough analysis of the development’s environmental and groundwater impact. We’re asking for Bernhardt’s communications related to the Villages at Vigneto development, or records of his meeting with an official from El Dorado Holdings, the developer.
Resumes and Ethics Documents of Burrowing Political Appointees
As the country transitions to a new administration, concerns remain about the practice of “burrowing,” when political appointees move into permanent career positions, effectively bypassing more competitive government hiring processes. As part of our ongoing investigation into the potential burrowing in of political appointees, we filed FOIA requests with multiple federal agencies for records (such as resumes and ethics documents) for agency political appointees converting to a permanent career position.
Part of Investigation: