Whether it’s text messages showing the Trump White House’s courting of conspiracy theories and vote-overturning schemes after the 2020 election or audio recordings that refute congressional leaders’ denials that they had called for accountability after Jan. 6, records are vital for telling the story that government officials won’t.
That’s why American Oversight is fighting so hard for the release of public records that can shed light on the ongoing efforts to cast doubt on U.S. democracy. This week came the news that the partisan election investigation in Wisconsin — which had been set to end Saturday — will go on for yet more weeks.
- Details of the extension, including whether it will require more taxpayer funding, have yet to be revealed, but we’ll continue fighting for the release — and preservation — of related public records.
- Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ announcement of Gableman’s investigation extension came after former President Trump threatened to support a primary challenge to Vos, an echo of the pressure he had exerted before Vos announced the investigation last June.
In another court win in one of our lawsuits this week, an Arizona judge ruled that former Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and his wife were personally responsible for records from the discredited “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 election — records that multiple times have been ruled public.
- “[Logan] needs to turn over everything,” Judge Michael Kemp said, as quoted in the Arizona Republic. “The issue of public records has been clearly resolved. These are public records. There is no more dispute over that. That is the law of the case. Period.”
New information has also emerged this week about the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and about the plots by Trump allies in the weeks after the 2020 election to overturn the former president’s loss. Evidence filed in court late last week by the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 reveals more information about the lawmakers who assisted in those plots.
- Politico reported that members of Congress “traded theories about ways to push then-Vice President Mike Pence to single-handedly stop Biden’s election, they parried with the White House Counsel’s Office on the boundaries of the law regarding presidential electors and they met directly with Pence’s staff to encourage him to take direct action on Jan. 6, when Congress convened to count electoral votes.”
The select committee said on Thursday that it would hold eight hearings in June that Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee chair, told reporters “will tell the story about what happened.”
- The committee is also focusing on discussions among Trump allies after the election about using emergency powers like the Insurrection Act or the declaration of martial law to thwart the transfer of power.
- Former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is expected to appear before the committee next month. The panel has also spoken with multiple staffers from the Republican National Committee regarding the party’s fundraising in the weeks after the election.
Local election officials face an increasing number of threats, and even increased penalties for technical infractions, thanks to new laws enacted in support of baseless voter-fraud allegations. And as the Big Lie’s influence continues to spread, Reuters has identified eight incidents in which activists and partisan officials “have plotted to gain illegal access to balloting systems, undermining the security of elections they claim to protect.” Here are other related headlines:
- Lawsuit seeks to ban ballot-counting machines in Arizona (Capitol Media Services)
- Building the ‘Big Lie’: Inside the creation of Trump’s stolen election myth (ProPublica)
- Lawmakers to look at Supreme Court ethics changes after Ginni Thomas’ election texts stirred debate (USA Today)
- GOP concocts fake threat: voter fraud by undocumented immigrants (New York Times)
- Meadows texts shine new light on Trump effort in Georgia (The Hill)
- Rep. Andy Biggs said to push early for alternate electors, bypassing 2020 election results (Arizona Republic)
- ‘Blurring of lines’: Private lawyer plays starring role in taxpayer-funded election probe (Wisconsin Watch)
The Coronavirus Pandemic
New data from the CDC show that at the end of February, nearly 60 percent of Americans — including three-quarters of children — had been infected with Covid-19, up from just one-third before the winter’s omicron surge. Officials and public health experts warn that this does not indicate immunity from the virus, as the likelihood of reinfection is unclear.
- While Anthony Fauci said that the U.S. is moving from a “full-blown” pandemic into a “transitional” and “more controlled phase,” he later clarified that “by no means does that mean the pandemic is over.”
- A Washington Post analysis found that unvaccinated people are no longer the overwhelming majority of Covid deaths, with the virus taking a growing toll on elderly people, especially those without boosters.
Case counts continued to increase over the past week. Hospitalizations are at a daily average of about 15,000, having increased in a few states. Deaths are decreasing and at a daily average of about 350.
- Moderna is asking the FDA to authorize its vaccine for children under 6.
- Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive on Tuesday. Her office announced that she would be taking the Pfizer antiviral pill Paxlovid.
- More than 2,000 people are expected to gather at this weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. As of Friday morning, President Biden was expected to attend part of the event but skip the dinner.
- Deborah Birx, the former White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that Trump’s April 2020 suggestion of injecting disinfectants to combat the virus was a “tragedy on many levels.” Birx, who has faced criticism for not doing more to push back against Trump’s misinformation, is promoting a new book about her time in the administration.
- The Post reported on Friday that Trump White House officials in May 2020 overrode public health officials’ advice that churches hold virtual religious services.
Lack of government funding has led health care providers to end or scale back treatment for uninsured individuals, threatening to widen disparities for low-income people. Black and Hispanic individuals are the least likely to have insurance.
- Unionized nursing homes saw lower infection rates among both workers and residents than their non-unionized counterparts.
- Philadelphia reversed its mask mandate just days after reinstating it.
- An investigation by WNYC and Gothamist raises concerns about the efficacy of air purifiers that New York City public school officials purchased from a startup that began lobbying officials in 2020. The investigation found that schools that rely on open windows and portable air purifiers saw higher rates of Covid-19 among students and staff than those with stronger ventilation systems.
On the Records
Questionable Trump Administration Pandemic Loan
New documents released by Congress show that in 2020, Trump administration officials pushed through a $700 million pandemic loan to defense contractor Yellow Corp (formerly YRC Worldwide) that was meant for companies “critical to maintaining national security.”
- According to House Democrats, career Defense Department officials had decided not to certify the company as such, but Defense Secretary Mark Esper granted the certification anyway following a phone call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
- The House pandemic subcommittee, which had been investigating the loans, previously cited documents obtained by American Oversight that included communications between Trump officials discussing the announcement of the loan.
Scrapped Plan to Host the G7 Summit at Trump Resort
In the fall of 2019, Trump announced he would hold the 2020 G7 summit at his Trump National Doral resort in Miami, Fla., a plan that was eventually scrapped. We obtained Secret Service communications regarding the plan, including emails about site research and threat assessments.
- The records appear to indicate that the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich coordinated site research for the summit. Trump’s first chief of staff Reince Priebus had become president of the firm after he left the White House in 2017. Learn more about these records on Twitter.
Threats to Election Officials
In June 2021, the Justice Department announced it was creating a task force to address the deluge of threats against election officials across the country. We obtained 27 pages of records that shed light on incidents the task force has been investigating. Many of the reported incidents involve people demanding so-called “audits” of the 2020 election results.
Other Stories We’re Following
- Federal judge temporarily blocks Biden administration from ending Title 42 Covid border restrictions for migrants (CNN)
- Donald Trump held in contempt for failing to provide business records (Washington Post)
- Elon Musk and Twitter reach deal for sale (New York Times)
- House panel to explore impeachment, judicial ethics in wake of Ginni Thomas texts (The Hill)
- Climate activists sue USPS to block purchase of gas-guzzling trucks (Washington Post)
- Massive wildfires helped fuel global forest losses in 2021 (Washington Post)
- How it became normal for public officials to attack journalists (Washington Post)
In the States
- Seven times Texas leaders misled the public about Operation Lone Star (ProPublica)
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill creating election police force (CBS News)
- Missouri lawmakers consider extending proposed ban on gender-affirming care to adults (The Hill)
- DeSantis signs new congressional map into law as groups sue over redistricting (Politico)
- Oklahoma legislature approves ban of abortions after six weeks of pregnancy (Washington Post)
- Teachers in Southlake, Texas, asked to sign ‘non-disparagement’ agreements (NBC News)