News Roundup: Rewriting History

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s decision to release thousands of hours of Jan. 6 surveillance footage to far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson is an alarming escalation of the effort to recast the events of that day.

  • Carlson, like others eager to rewrite history, has repeatedly downplayed the attack, even promoting conspiracy theories that it was orchestrated by antifa groups to discredit Trump supporters.
  • In addition to worries that the footage could be used to sow further disinformation, its release has also ignited serious security concerns. According to Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Jan. 6 committee had coordinated with Capitol Police in choosing which footage to air during its hearings last year.
  • A reminder: We put together a detailed timeline of that day’s events as revealed through public records and news reports.

The Jan. 6 committee had also attempted to put together a minute-by-minute account of former President Trump’s actions on the day of the attack — and this week the defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News revealed a new data point.

  • According to court filings, Trump tried to call into Fox News after the storming of the Capitol, but network executives refused to put him on air.
  • This comes after the disclosure of messages sent by top Fox News hosts and executives in which they expressed their disbelief of the same election lies they aired on their shows.
  • Related: The Washington Post reported that former Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich had concealed records that debunked claims about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
  • Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were subpoenaed in the special counsel investigation of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, as were some Arizona Republican lawmakers. Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to compel former Vice President Pence to testify.

And speaking of rewriting history, conservative attacks on education have continued, especially in Florida, where students walked out on Thursday in protest of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plans to ban diversity and critical race theory programs from higher education. Here are some related headlines:

  • In texts, Youngkin appointee plots ‘battle royale for the soul of UVA’ (Washington Post)
  • University of Texas System pauses new diversity, equity and inclusion policies (Texas Tribune)
  • Florida bill would end diversity programs, ban majors, shift power at universities (Tampa Bay Times)

Victory in Texas
The Travis County District Court has denied Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s and Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request to dismiss our lawsuit for the release of public records, including emails with gun industry lobbyists following the Uvalde shooting as well as emails sent by Paxton around Jan. 6.

  • Abbott and Paxton had taken a position that would have eviscerated the public’s ability to enforce the state’s Public Information Act and would have limited public oversight of the Texas government. 
  • In a letter ruling, the judge pointed to open questions about how Abbott and Paxton were classifying “official business” related to “very visible issues under their oversight,” as well as about whether any of the records were incorrectly withheld under attorney-client privilege.
  • “The people of Texas are entitled to know what their public officials are doing and why,” said American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer. “Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton should stop fighting to keep public records hidden and release the documents that we’ve requested.”

On the Records

DHS Deleted Texts
In an ongoing lawsuit against DHS for top Trump administration officials’ communications with prominent election deniers during the weeks around the 2020 election, the department and its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency told us that they cannot search for the records because of the prior practice of routinely collecting and wiping the cell phones of departing officials.

  • The congressional Jan. 6 investigation led to revelations last summer that Secret Service texts and data from the days around the attack had been deleted, as had those of top DHS officials. 
  • Last year, in our lawsuit against the Defense Department for Jan. 6 texts, the department admitted that the phones of certain officials had also been wiped. Public outcry led to the Pentagon reminding officials that texts are federal records that must be preserved and directed that data be preserved before phones are wiped. DHS also announced a similar policy.

DeSantis’ Push to Remake New College
Gov. DeSantis is attempting to transform New College — a small, progressive public college — to be more conservative. In January, DeSantis removed six of New College’s 13 trustees, replacing them with conservative allies who then replaced the college’s president with Richard Corcoran, DeSantis’ former education commissioner. Records we previously obtained shed light on Corcoran’s time in DeSantis’ administration. 

  • In April 2021, DeSantis’ chief of staff emailed his external affairs director what appears to be an agenda. On the list: “Direct Corcoran on Critical Race Theory.”
  • We submitted public records requests for the communications of the new board appointees as well as for any meeting records and all planning documents related to faculty tenure or employee contracts.

Other Stories We’re Following

Election Denial and Threats to Democracy
  • Arkansas Senate committee OKs bill to require election integrity review of election-related documents, records (Arkansas Democrat Gazette)
  • Breaking down the election denial industrial complex (Accountable US)
  • Cities might run their elections, with help from a fake Georgia elector (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • Republican losses fan election conspiracies in rural Arizona (Associated Press)
  • ‘Quick buck’: New report shows how MAGA election grifters ‘cashed in’ (Salon)
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Daniel Kelly was paid $120,000 by Republicans to work on ‘election integrity,’ advise on fake electors (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • Trump ally with ties to ‘fake elector’ scheme advances in Wisconsin Supreme Court race (NBC News)
  • Five election deniers who are controlling state voting systems (News From The States)
  • Cochise County residents aim to recall supervisor who failed to certify election results (Arizona Republic)
  • GOP donor Mattress Mack files lawsuit against Harris County Elections office for access to 2022 Election Day records (Houston Public Media)
Voting Rights
  • Texas Senate revives effort to make illegal voting a felony (Texas Tribune)
  • Unequal Pennsylvania election policies disenfranchised voters (Spotlight PA)
  • Rights group: Some clerks still telling disabled voters they can’t get help filing ballots in Wisconsin (Wisconsin State Journal)
  • Minnesota is poised to restore the voting rights of tens of thousands (Bolts)
Trump Administration Accountability
  • Trump may be questioned in lawsuits by ex-FBI employees claiming retribution (Washington Post)
  • Jury in Georgia Trump inquiry recommended multiple indictments, forewoman says (New York Times)
In the States
  • Florida Surgeon General Joe Ladapo investigated for allegedly falsifying Covid report (Politico)
  • Ron DeSantis’ use of government power to implement agenda worries some conservatives (CNN)
  • DeSantis administration requires events at the Capitol ‘align’ with its mission (Politico)
  • State official inheriting Florida migrant relocation program has questions about vendor (Miami Herald)
  • Central Florida GOP lawmakers with ties to private schools vote for voucher expansion (Orlando Sentinel)
  • Tennessee House passes controversial drag show bill (Tennessean)
  • Ban on care for young trans Mississippians heads to Gov. Reeves desk (Mississippi Free Press)
  • Parents raise concerns as Florida bans gender-affirming care for trans kids (NPR)
  • A.G. Moody, citing Dobbs ruling, seeks to cut off Planned Parenthood funding (Florida Phoenix)
National News
  • Paid fines indicate meat industry’s use of child labor is more widespread than previously known (Food Safety News)
  • An activist group is spreading misinformation to stop solar projects in rural America (NPR)
  • U.S. mass killings linked to extremism spiked over last decade (Associated Press)
  • What it looks like when the far right takes control of local government (Politico)
  • Arizona-based ‘constitutional sheriff’ group promotes members with ties to white nationalism (Arizona Mirror)
  • Biden administration proposes tougher restrictions on asylum at U.S.-Mexico border (NPR)
  • The public records request bedeviling DOL (Politico)