News Roundup: Eastman Disciplinary Trial, Missouri Health Resources, and Virginia Tip Line Records

This week, as former President Trump and several of his 18 co-defendants in the Georgia election case surrendered to authorities in Atlanta, the disciplinary trial for one of those co-defendants — attorney John Eastman — resumed in California.

Eastman, an architect of the fake-electors plot that sought to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election, faces potential disbarment for his role in the plot to keep Trump in power, including his authorship of a memo proposing that the vice president could unilaterally reject electoral votes from certain states.

  • On Thursday, prosecutors reportedly read through that memo, asking a legal and election expert whether there was “historical precedent” where the vice president could postpone the certification. (The answer was no.)
  • According to ABC News, prosecutors also presented a letter Eastman had sent to former Wisconsin Rep. Timothy Ramthun in which he wrote that “state legislatures … do have the authority to de-certify the election of presidential electors.”
  • We obtained that letter. It’s dated Dec. 30, 2021, when Ramthun was calling for the state legislature to overturn the results from the election that had occurred more than a year before.

The potential list of witnesses lined up to testify for Eastman include a number of names familiar to those who have followed the post-2020 efforts to undermine democracy through partisan election investigations, attacks on voting rights, and challenges to election administration.

  • The potential witnesses include Michael Gableman, Kurt Olsen, and others. We put together a compilation of records we’ve obtained detailing the communications and activities of a number of these potential witnesses — as well as witnesses who have since been excluded from testifying, such as former Rep. Mark Finchem.

Here are some recent headlines related to the election denial movement and other threats to democracy:

  • A right-wing sheriffs group that challenges federal law is gaining acceptance around the country (Associated Press)
  • God-given rights: The nationwide spread of the ‘constitutional sheriff’ (Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)
  • Arizona features prominently at Lindell’s election conspiracy forum (Arizona Mirror)
  • My Pillow conspiracy theorist plans drone surveillance of Louisiana voting sites, report says (Louisiana Illuminator)
  • 255 days after Arizona 2022 election certification, new fringe lawsuit seeks to decertify results (Democracy Docket)
  • Arizona pilot for secure ballot paper won’t move forward as planned (Votebeat)
  • Louisiana first in the nation to vote on banning private elections funding (Bolts)

Virginia Lawsuit Update
Despite the tip line having been closed for nearly a year without any clear resulting actions, the office of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin continues to fight against the release of public information related to its controversial “inherently divisive concepts” tip line.

  • We sued Youngkin’s office for records related to the tip line in August 2022. The office has appealed a court order to release records and continues to argue that the records are “correspondence and working papers of the Governor’s office” and are therefore exempt from disclosure.

On Aug. 7, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and nine other media and transparency organizations — including the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the National Freedom of Information Coalition, and the Society of Professional Journalists — submitted an amicus brief, urging the appellate court to uphold the ruling that the records are subject to release. Read more about the brief here.

On the Records

Missouri Health Dept. Removed Youth Sexual Health, LGBTQ Resources from Website
Records we obtained, reported on by the Kansas City Star, reveal that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services removed links to resources about youth and LGBTQ sexual health from its website early this year.

  • In January, Lisa Cox, the health department’s communications director, instructed employees to remove certain links to sexual education and LGBTQ resources from the department’s adolescent health information page. The links are no longer available on the website.
  • Other emails we obtained suggest a pattern of Missouri DHSS officials seeking to avoid sharing resources deemed to be politically charged, pointing to things like the use of gender-inclusive language.

The records illustrate the chilling effect of the wave of attacks on LGBTQ and reproductive rights — including Missouri’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors, trans student sports restrictions, and near-total ban on abortion.

  • The Washington Post reported earlier this year that Virginia Gov. Youngkin’s administration had also quietly removed public health resources related to LGBTQ issues, abortion, sexual health, and pregnancy from a state website.
  • “With attacks on reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights on the rise, political concerns, including whether information about contraceptive methods and resources for transgender Missourians are too ‘controversial,’ are overriding the need to ensure that all Missourians have access to critical health care information,” said American Oversight’s Executive Director Heather Sawyer.

Other Stories We’re Following

Voting Rights
  • Virginia in talks with Ohio, Florida, Texas in new voter fraud initiative (Virginia Public Media)
  • Federal judges rule against provisions of GOP-backed voting laws in Georgia and Texas (Associated Press)
  • Biennial state-by-state elections and voter survey details the 1.5% of mail-in ballots rejected in 2022 (Democracy Docket)
  • Federal judges rule against provisions of GOP-backed voting laws in Georgia and Texas (Associated Press)
  • Texas Supreme Court lets state law eliminating Harris County elections chief stand, for now (Texas Tribune)
  • Alabama defies the Voting Rights Act (Brennan Center)
  • Ohio AG rejects anti-gerrymandering ballot effort that would create citizen redistricting commission (Ohio Capital Journal)
State and National News
  • Inside a ‘nightmare’ lockdown at a Wisconsin prison (New York Times)
  • As the death toll in stifling Texas prisons climbs, congressional Democrats ask for investigation (Texas Tribune)
  • ‘I could sell golf’: How DeSantis and aides courted lobbyists for campaign cash (Washington Post)
  • Nebraska AG questioned over hiring of ex-lawmaker who lacks legal background (Associated Press)
  • In deadly Maui fires, many had no warning and no way out. Those who dodged barricades survived (Associated Press)
  • D.C. attorney general is probing Leonard Leo’s network (Politico)
  • Conservative activist sues 2 major law firms over diversity fellowships (Washington Post)
  • Supreme Court is asked to hear a new admissions case on race (New York Times)
  • In states with few legal protections, students say they’ve been unfairly punished at school (NBC News)
LGBTQ Rights
  • Transgender care ban allowed to take effect in Alabama, appeals panel says (New York Times)
  • In St. Joseph, local GOP pressured lawmakers to block approval of gay library board member (KCUR Kansas City)
  • Court battle begins over Missouri’s ban on gender-affirming health care for minors (Associated Press)
  • Judge allows hormone therapy to resume for transgender kids in Georgia (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • Harsh penalties approved for Florida state college employees who use restrooms that don’t correspond with gender assigned at birth (CNN)
  • A sex educator in Michigan refused to be shamed. Then came the backlash. (Washington Post)
Abortion and Reproductive Rights
  • South Carolina’s new all-male highest court reverses course on abortion, upholding strict 6-week ban (Associated Press)
  • Abortion-ban states pour millions into pregnancy centers with little medical care (Louisiana Illuminator)
  • West Virginia can restrict abortion pill sales, judge rules, despite FDA approval that it’s safe (Associated Press)
  • Indiana’s near-total abortion ban set to take effect as state Supreme Court denies rehearing (Associated Press)
  • State Supreme Court to reconsider 1864 law ordering prison time for abortion providers (Arizona Republic)
  • No OB-GYNs left in town: What came after Idaho’s assault on abortion (Guardian)
  • Split ballot board approves reproductive rights amendment summary written by Ohio Sec. of State (Ohio Capital Journal)
Threats to Education
  • Black history is under attack across U.S. from AP African American Studies to ‘Ruby Bridges’ (USA Today)
  • As Va. school districts split on transgender policies, state enforcement tools appear limited (Virginia Mercury)
  • University of Houston students brace for LGBTQ Resource Center closure in response to Texas’ DEI ban (Texas Tribune)
  • Unelected education boards set rules that reach beyond Florida law (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Florida quietly added more secrecy to university president searches (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Rockin’ and rollin’ with book challenges: Internal emails show Moms for Liberty plans (Tallahassee Democrat)
  • Moms for Liberty is growing in Wisconsin as critics call them extremists (Wisconsin Watch)
  • A ‘shocking’ 911 call and other key takeaways from NPR’s ICE detention investigation (NPR)
  • Texas sent more asylum seekers to L.A. even as Hilary raged, immigrant rights group says (Los Angeles Times)
  • Texas imprisoned migrants after they should have been released, lawsuit claims (Texas Tribune)
  • At Texas border, some support for Abbott’s crackdown is waning (New York Times)
  • Asylum-seekers are being set up for rejection at a New Mexico detention facility, rights groups say (Associated Press)
  • Before child died in custody, CBP tried to replace medical contractor (Washington Post)
Trump Administration Accountability
  • Special counsel investigating false statements made by Trump employees in classified documents case (CNN)
  • Special counsel says D.C. grand jury on Trump documents case has ended (Washington Post)
  • Jared Kushner’s massive Saudi earnings for few investments raise questions (Newsweek)
  • Justice Dept. pushes back against Trump’s bid for a 2026 trial in D.C. (Washington Post)