Donald Trump faces his second impeachment trial next week, this time for his role in inciting the violent and seditious mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
His incendiary rhetoric, centered on the big lie of a stolen election, was long encouraged by anti-democratic forces that sought to assist him in his bid to overturn the presidential election. And those forces are still at work across the country, among government officials who participated in the Jan. 6 rally prior to the Capitol invasion and amid ongoing efforts to rig the political system, to make voting harder, and even to continue the election-fraud farce.
Arizona’s legislature has of late provided multiple examples of how these forces threaten our democracy. On Wednesday, all 16 members of the state senate’s Republican majority voted that members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors be held in contempt and arrested for their refusal to turn over voting records and machines, which the lawmakers want for the purposes of investigating baseless fraud claims. (The county, also GOP-controlled, says doing so would violate state law.) This comes on the heels of several newly introduced bills in the Arizona legislature that would make voting harder, such as by removing names from the early voting lists or introducing new barriers.
Of course, Arizona isn’t the only state making these moves. The Brennan Center has compiled a list of all the voting-restriction laws that have cropped up in 2021 so far — among them are bills in Georgia that aim to restrict absentee voting and ban ballot drop boxes. It is worth noting that both Arizona and Georgia are states where President Joe Biden beat Trump, but where Republicans maintain control of the legislatures. Two other such states, though with Democratic governors, are Pennsylvania, where last month legislators introduced a proposal to end statewide elections of appellate court judges, and Wisconsin, where Thursday Gov. Tony Evers issued a new statewide mask mandate after lawmakers voted to repeal his previous mandate.
That control of state legislatures also has enormous implications for this year’s redrawing of congressional maps. Samuel Wang of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project told the New York Times this week that gerrymandered reapportionment alone could confer multiple new Republican seats in key swing states. And while the Trump administration’s attempts to manipulate the U.S. census to exclude undocumented immigrants and to order the Census Bureau to produce citizenship data ended with his presidency, the delay in the release of data will likely create a truncated window for redrawing maps and handling court challenges before the 2022 elections.
Here’s some other news from the states:
Troubling Conditions During 2019 Blackout at Brooklyn Detention Center
Two years ago last week, the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., was gripped by a weeklong power outage at the same time a polar vortex plunged temperatures into the single digits. We published a report this week on hundreds of pages of records we obtained that shed more light on the conditions inside; the records include inmate complaints alleging delayed medical care, delayed emergency responses, and lack of access to prescribed medications, as well as logs that reflect the wildly fluctuating temperatures inside the facility.
Cuccinelli’s Last-Minute Deal
A recently filed whistleblower complaint accused former Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli (whose appointment a judge ruled illegal last March) of abusing his power in making a last-minute agreement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement union that requires DHS leaders to obtain approval from the union on any policy changes. The agreement was signed by Chris Crane, the union president.
We obtained an email from early 2017 in which Crane contacted Justice Department official Gene Hamilton — who was closely involved in the family separation policy and in frequent contact with former White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller — writing, “Stephen Miller asked that I send you this email.” The content of the email is fully redacted, which is questionable given Crane’s position outside of the government. We’ll be investigating Cuccinelli’s deal with the union, and continuing to look into Miller’s actions during the final days of the anti-immigration Trump administration.
States Unable to Use $44 Million CDC System
The nationwide distribution of Covid-19 vaccines has been beset by difficulties. Among the issues have been problems with the Vaccine Administration Management System, a web-based application developed by consulting company Deloitte for the CDC that was supposed to be a one-stop shop for tracking vaccine doses and appointments. Many states have abandoned it, and some officials have even resorted to tracking vaccinations by hand. We obtained copies of the CDC’s May 2020 $16 million contract with Deloitte, which described the system as a “centralized COVID-19 mobile reporting application.” Another $28 million contract was awarded in December.
State Mask Mandates
In December, we asked health departments in multiple states, including Georgia and Iowa, for assessments about the impact of mask mandates and other policies on the spread of Covid-19. Those two states have now told us that they could locate no records responsive to the requests, suggesting that the states had not conducted any analysis about one of the most effective ways to mitigate transmission. Georgia still lacks a mandate; Iowa’s governor didn’t impose one until November.
Masks in the Mail
The Biden administration is reportedly considering mailing masks to all Americans. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we obtained documents last fall showing that the U.S. Postal Service had a plan to distribute masks to all U.S. households early on in the pandemic. The Washington Post reported that the Trump White House nixed the plan.
Mitch McConnell’s Push to Confirm DOT IG
In December, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed to get Eric Soskin confirmed as the inspector general of the Transportation Department. The IG’s office had been investigating whether former Secretary Elaine Chao had improperly directed grants to Kentucky while her husband, McConnell, sought reelection — a timeline highlighted by the Project on Government Oversight and this week by the New York Times. In 2019, we uncovered emails showing that Chao’s office had coordinated with McConnell’s to give priority to Kentucky-specific requests.
How Congress Can Get Trump’s Presidential Records
Throughout Trump’s tenure, the White House stonewalled and obstructed legitimate requests from Congress for records. But Congress now has a way to obtain the documents it’s entitled to, and that’s by requesting them from the National Archives, as our Molly Claflin and Dan McGrath explain at Just Security. (This includes Trump’s White House visitor logs.)
Senate passes budget resolution; Vice President Harris breaks tie (NPR)
Inside the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency (Axios)
Austin ousts Pentagon advisory board members as he roots out Trump appointees (Politico)
Moscow court orders Kremlin foe Navalny to prison (Politico)
In rare public statement, congressional aides call for Trump’s conviction (New York Times)
How the LAPD and Palantir use data to justify racist policing (Intercept)
McKinsey settles for nearly $600 million over role in opioid crisis (New York Times)
Sacred Native American land to be traded to a foreign mining giant (National Geographic)
Scottish Parliament to hold vote on Unexplained Wealth Order into Donald Trump’s finances (The Scotsman)
The Boogaloo Bois have guns, criminal records and military training. Now they want to overthrow the government. (ProPublica)
77 Days: Trump’s campaign to subvert the election (New York Times)
They stormed the Capitol to overturn the results of an election they didn’t vote in (CNN)
Part of Investigation: