If there were any hopes that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would, after having been accused of Hatch Act violations this summer, tone down his political activities as the election drew nearer, his recent pledge to release the emails of former Secretary Hillary Clinton has put those expectations to rest.
In August, Pompeo faced a barrage of criticism for giving a political speech that had been recorded while he was on taxpayer-funded travel. But instead of solely focusing on his job as the nation’s top diplomat, Pompeo has continued to make visits to and conduct interviews in key swing states. Now, President Donald Trump’s increasingly impatient desire to implicate his perceived political rivals in unfounded corruption schemes has led the secretary of state to promise to release Clinton’s emails before the election.
American Oversight filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel last week. OSC indicated on Monday that it would open a case file to investigate Pompeo’s potential violations of the Hatch Act — which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity in their official capacities — and whether Pompeo has dragged State Department employees in on the effort. Pompeo has scoffed at accusations that releasing the emails would be a violation of the Hatch Act, claiming the move would be “for the sake of transparency.”
But speaking of emails — and transparency: This week, we published records from Pompeo’s time as CIA director, showing that he routinely used his personal email account to conduct official business. On Friday, we sent a letter to the National Archives and Records Administration, the CIA, and the State Department, urging them to quickly recover any records that may have been unlawfully removed as a result of this practice.
The extensive volume of these emails suggests Pompeo may have continued using personal email when he moved to the State Department. Despite having submitted multiple Freedom of Information Act requests, and even suing the State Department for failing to release records, we still have not received a single email sent from Pompeo’s State Department account.
The rush to confirm Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court reached the next stop in its problematic journey on Thursday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced her nomination to a final vote by the full Senate.
Despite the public outcry over the blatantly hypocritical and political process, despite the boycott by many lawmakers on the committee, and despite the deficiency of the confirmation hearings in thoroughly evaluating her qualifications and views, Barrett appears headed to a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land.
Over the past month, public reporting has continually unearthed new pieces information about Barrett’s past work and event appearances that were omitted from her Senate paperwork; at two points during the proceedings, Barrett had to send additional documents to the committee. Democratic members of the committee said that they were given “inadequate” time to review the nomination. Barrett’s responses to questions were also criticized as inadequate, thanks to her refusal to supply substantive answers to inquiries as simple as whether voting twice was illegal.
“A Justice’s confirmation hearings are the last chance to assess the qualifications of a nominee before they ascend to a lifetime appointment,” said Austin Evers, American Oversight’s executive director. “There is no good reason to rush a confirmation until the Senate and the public have had a chance to assess their views, background, and records. Barrett’s nomination was expedited for purely political reasons. No senator who takes their oath of office seriously should vote to confirm a justice about whom we know so little.”
Since Barrett’s selection, we’ve filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Justice Department for communications with outside individuals and organizations about Barrett’s nomination, as well as with Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office about judicial nominations. You can read more about our Supreme Court investigation here.
‘John Johnson Isn’t Dead’
The conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation has claimed that ballots allegedly cast by deceased voters in Palm Beach County, Fla., are evidence of widespread voter fraud, and has pressured officials to purge voter rolls. But records we obtained, researched and reported on by Reveal, show that those claims fall apart under scrutiny. PILF had in 2019 sent county officials a list of more than 100 voters who had purportedly cast a ballot after their dates of death — but in looking at the list, Reveal could find no instances of deceased people having cast ballots in Palm Beach County.
Pompeo’s Firing of Department Watchdog
Back in the spring, it was Trump who acceded to Pompeo’s wishes, when the president fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was conducting an investigation of Pompeo’s conduct. We obtained new emails related to Linick’s firing that shed more light on who was involved.
The records are heavily redacted, but show that on the night of the firing, James Bacon — an aide to PPO Director John McEntee, who has spearheaded the president’s loyalty purges — emailed the State Department’s White House liaison, Nilda Pedrosa, about “IG.” Later, Pedrosa, who is now the acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, forwarded the email to two of Pompeo’s long-serving aides.
Barr’s Visitor Logs
Mother Jones reported this week on how Jho Low, a businessman suspected of planning the embezzlement of about $4.5 billion, paid large amounts of money to prominent conservative figures in an effort to fend off a Justice Department investigation. We obtained Attorney General William Barr’s visitor logs, which show that he met with Low’s law firm in July 2019.
Political Interference in Coronavirus Communications
The White House’s persistent interference with the actions of the nation’s science agencies has involved pushing questionable treatments, calling for hurried timelines, and exercising strict control over public communications. We reported on records we obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration that show officials including Michael Caputo and Katie Miler organizing press outreach, promoting talking points, and altering review processes.
The Billionaire Commerce Secretary
When confirmed as secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross pledged to divest millions in assets. The complexity of Ross’ financial holdings have made it difficult to track his ethics obligations, with new stories about his failures to fully comply cropping up every so often. Documents we obtained show that he held meetings with Railway Security Alliance representatives while owning stock in a related company.
The Ongoing Tragedy of Family Separation
Lawyers appointed to find migrant families who were separated by the Trump administration have said they cannot find the parents of 545 children. Our family-separation timeline includes a Jan. 24, 2018, memo from the Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights office highlighting the devastating outcomes for children from the policy — one “negative impact” listed was “New populations of U.S. orphans.”
Deaths of Children Detained at the Border
We obtained documents from the Department of Homeland Security that provide further details about the deaths of Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo. They include incident reports completed by the Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility in response to the deaths.
Giuliani may have violated the law in providing information from alleged Hunter Biden computer to New York Post (American Oversight)
Why 4,998 died in U.S. jails without getting their day in court (Reuters)
Democracy activists stranded after Trump admin pulls funding for anti-censorship tools (NBC News)
The EPA refuses to reduce pollutants linked to coronavirus deaths (ProPublica)
In Ohio, a printing company is overwhelmed and mail ballots are delayed (New York Times)
HHS lawyer: Trump’s drug cards could violate election law (Politico)
As local news dies, a pay-for-play network rises in its place (New York Times)
Trump’s labor secretary is a wrecking ball aimed at workers (The New Yorker)
White House looks at cutting Covid funds, newborn screenings in ‘anarchist’ cities (Politico)
USPS did not analyze how changes would affect mail delivery, watchdog says (CNN)
Florida lobbyist thrives in Trump-era Washington (Wall Street Journal)
Google AI tech will be used for virtual border wall, CBP contract shows (Intercept)
Florida to investigate all Covid-19 deaths after questions about ‘integrity of data’ (South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Many U.S. coronavirus deaths were avoidable (Axios)
As Trump team rushes to train ‘army’ of poll watchers, experts on watch for voter intimidation (ABC News)
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