‘The Phone Is Wiped’
It wasn’t just the Secret Service. And it wasn’t just Department of Homeland Security leadership. American Oversight’s FOIA litigation has revealed that the Department of Defense and the Army also deleted the text messages of top Trump administration officials from the day of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
In court filings in our lawsuit for records related to Jan. 6, the Defense Department admitted that it had “wiped” the phones of certain former officials — including former acting Secretary Chris Miller and Chief of Staff Kash Patel, as well as Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy — and that it had failed to preserve texts from Jan. 6.
- Our lawsuit seeks the release of communications those officials and others had with President Trump, Vice President Pence, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, or anyone communicating on their behalf.
- American Oversight had requested those records on Jan. 12, 2021 — just six days after the riot, and more than a week before the change in administration.
On Monday, we sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting that he open an investigation into the matter, and CNN and multiple other national outlets reported on the deleted texts.
- Sen. Dick Durbin — the chair of the Judiciary Committee, who last week asked Garland to take control of the investigation of the missing DHS and Secret Service text messages — called for an investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general.
In the days immediately after our revelation of the deleted texts, the Pentagon and DHS announced significant policy changes regarding recordkeeping:
- In a memo made public on Thursday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks directed the department to conduct an internal assessment of its record-retention compliance, and said that “effective immediately” the department’s information service providers are to capture and save data on officially provided devices when they’re turned in.
- On Thursday, DHS announced that it will stop wiping the mobile devices of high-level officials without backing them up, and that it will launch a month-long review of its message-retention practices.
‘A Practical Impossibility’
Just two weeks after he had publicly called on state lawmakers to consider decertifying the state’s 2020 election, Michael Gableman privately told Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos that doing so was “a practical impossibility.”
Gableman’s conclusion was outlined in a March 2022 memo to Vos, obtained by American Oversight and reported on by the Washington Post.
- Decertification is, of course, legally impossible. But the months since the memo was sent have done little to mute the calls among far-right conservatives in Wisconsin for such a measure. And Vos’ statements that decertification would not be pursued has earned him the ire not just of the election-denying chair of the Assembly’s election committee, but also of former President Trump.
In fact, election conspiracy theories have frequently proved to be a winning issue among conservatives this primary season: Prominent election deniers have prevailed in several states’ races for top jobs, including positions that oversee voting and election. Others are dangerously refusing to concede.
- The sustainability of the Big Lie has led to the alarming number of threats against election workers — the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division this week said that the department had reviewed more than 1,000 hostile threats over the past year.
- Meanwhile, Politico reported that the “Republican National Committee has been relying on a stable of the party’s most prolific spreaders of false stolen-election theories to pilot a sweeping ‘election integrity’ operation to recruit and coach thousands of poll workers in eight battleground states.”
- One of those conspiracy promoters is Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who played a key role in Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election and who is now an adviser to the federal Election Assistance Commission. On Tuesday, we sued the EAC to release records of communications of Mitchell and like-minded EAC commissioners with outside groups and activists who have worked to restrict access to voting.
Jan. 6 Investigations
The Justice Department this week subpoenaed former Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in its growing investigation of the Jan. 6 attack.
- On Wednesday, Politico outlined why any potential effort by Trump to “use executive privilege to disrupt the Justice Department’s grand jury investigation … could be a very short fight.”
- A series of emails reported on by the New York Times revealed that two Arizona Republicans who were recruited to join the fake-electors scheme had in December 2020 expressed concerns that the plan “could appear treasonous.”
- The Times also reported that Trump-allied lawyer John Eastman, an architect of the effort to block the congressional certification of the election, had — even after Biden had just been inaugurated — emailed Rudy Giuliani proposing that they challenge the runoff elections for U.S. Senate in Georgia that had happened two weeks earlier. He also asked Giuliani for help in getting paid the $270,000 he had billed the Trump campaign.
The Coronavirus Pandemic
President Biden tested positive for Covid-19 against last weekend in a case of “Paxlovid rebound,” in which people redevelop symptoms and positivity several days after taking the antiviral drug — a case that, as the Washington Post reports, “highlights confusing CDC guidance on ending isolation.” Here are other headlines related to the pandemic:
- CDC expected to ease Covid-19 recommendations, including for schools, as soon as this week (CNN)
- Updated Covid-19 boosters are expected in September. Will it be too late? (CNN)
- U.S. stuck in a ‘horrible plateau’ of Covid-19 deaths, experts say. Here’s why. (USA Today)
- Large landlords aggressively moved against renters in the pandemic, a report says (New York Times)
- New government reports on long Covid lay out existing help, what more should be done (ABC News)
- How misinformation about Covid vaccines and pregnancy took root early on and why it won’t go away (ProPublica)
- NYC plans to end school-based Covid testing program this fall, source says (Chalkbeat)
On the Records
Fertilizer Producer’s Lobbying Efforts
Emails we obtained showed how in 2017, Mosaic Co., one of the biggest fertilizer producers in the United States, lobbied the Trump administration to impose tariffs on fertilizer imports — tariffs that went into effect in 2021.
- The firm retained by Mosaic, Ballard Partners, was founded by a top fundraiser for the 2016 Trump campaign.
- The Intercept reported on the emails, which suggest Mosaic set up meetings with high-level trade officials, including National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
- According to the Intercept, foreign imports dropped and Mosaic gained control of 90 percent of the U.S. phosphate fertilizer market.
Big Lie Activists in Texas
This week, Votebeat reported on emails we obtained that show how a group of Texas activists, the Tarrant County Citizens for Election Integrity, coordinated with other groups pushing the Big Lie in the Lone Star State.
- For example, the group was in contact with Alan Vera, the chair of the Harris County Republican Party’s ballot security committee and a board member for another election-denying group called the Texas Election Network.
- In July, the Harris County Attorney’s Office announced it was investigating allegations that the Texas Election Network was going door to door, checking people’s addresses, and asking them to sign affidavits.
Other Stories We’re Following
- Jan. 6 committee prepares to subpoena Alex Jones’ texts, emails (Rolling Stone)
- Judge rejects bid to delay Oath Keepers Jan. 6 trial (Politico)
- Judge dismisses Trump’s ‘immunity’ claim in Jan. 6 lawsuits (NBC News)
- Trump lawyer proposed challenging Georgia Senate elections in search of fraud (New York Times)
- A Jan. 6 defendant is running for office in Florida — from jail (Washington Post)
The Big Lie
- Election conspiracies grip Nevada community, sowing distrust (Associated Press)
- North Texas conservatives police high turnout and close races as ‘anomalies’ suggesting fraud (Bolts)
- MyPillow chief spends tens of millions in fresh crusade to push Trump’s big lie (Guardian)
- Butler County is reviewing its 2020 election mail ballots. The Pennsylvania Department of State calls it a ‘waste of time.’ (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- What leaked audio tells us about Trump-linked “election integrity” efforts (NPR)
- Wisconsin anti-voting fraud activist commits voter fraud to make a point (Washington Post)
- Probe of Coffee County’s 2020 election conduct revives Georgia voting machine lawsuit (Georgia Recorder)
- Arizona attorney general: No evidence of widespread dead voters in 2020 (Washington Post)
In the States
- Kansas voters resoundingly protect their access to abortion (Associated Press)
- Parents of Sandy Hook victim testify in Alex Jones’ defamation trial (Texas Tribune)
- Christopher Schmaling, a figure in Wisconsin election controversies, is active in a sheriff’s group compared to the Oath Keepers (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
- DOJ challenges Idaho abortion law; first administration test since Roe v. Wade overturned (USA Today)
- How the U.S. let 20 million monkeypox vaccine doses expire (New York Times)
- GOP governors cause havoc by busing migrants to East Coast (New York Times)
- The ACLU says Border Patrol agents are confiscating Sikh men’s turbans (CNN)
- Talk of ‘invasion’ moves from the fringe to the mainstream of GOP immigration message (NPR)
- Justice Department sues Peter Navarro for Trump White House emails (Politico)