The alarming proliferation of state legislation designed to make voting harder isn’t just part of the “aftermath” of Donald Trump’s presidency — it is a continuation of his lies about voter fraud and attacks on democracy, which gave strength to yearslong efforts to dilute representation.
As we’ve written about before, and as the New York Times laid out this past weekend, the stolen-election lie is fueling new voting restrictions in a number of states, especially Arizona and Georgia. But it has also led to numerous other measures meant to dampen democracy, from changing ballot-initiative and judicial election rules to laying the groundwork for a new wave of gerrymandering this year. Some recent headlines:
This week, we obtained copies of phony electoral vote certificates from seven states that had been submitted to Congress — part of the failed attempt to overturn the election results. The fake certificates were assembled by Trump supporters who sought to replace valid presidential electors with bogus pro-Trump slates.
The coordinated, multi-state effort to undermine the electoral vote process led to the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to block the congressional certification of the real Electoral College votes. On Wednesday, in our investigation of the incident, we received records, first obtained and reported on by the Washington Post, that show that the DHS Federal Protective Service had warned about the potential for violence the day before the attack. They also reveal real-time reactions to the unfolding events, including photos and updates.
Of course, despite the fact that it was the stolen-election lie that put him in serious danger on Jan. 6, former Vice President Mike Pence penned an op-ed this week for the Daily Signal that claimed the 2020 election was “marked by significant voting irregularities.” The Big Lie lives on.
This week, the Transportation Department’s inspector general released a report finding that former Secretary Elaine Chao had misused her office to support her family’s shipping business, with staff being asked to run personal errands or promote her father’s work. In 2019, American Oversight obtained her calendar, which included an entry for a private photo shoot at the Transportation Department where Chao and her father posed with his company’s employees. We also previously uncovered records showing that Chao prioritized requests from Kentucky, the state represented by her husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell. Read more here.
As vaccine distribution continues to ramp up across the country, the varying state plans for how to get those shots to residents have sparked concerns about inequities in allocation. Those concerns are especially troubling in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pop-up clinics have been offering vaccinations to several wealthy communities with Republican fundraising ties. This week, an ethics complaint was filed against the Manatee County commissioner who helped set up a vaccination site catering to two of the county’s wealthiest zip codes — and added herself to the list.
Lack of transparency with regard to the state’s distribution plan is particularly pronounced with regard to the role of grocery chain Publix, a financial supporter of DeSantis that is the largest recipient of state-allocated doses, and that does not provide state officials with information ahead of time about where it unilaterally decides the shots will go.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state’s mask mandate despite warnings from health experts not to relax restrictions. The move was reportedly made without input from all of his medical advisers. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has declined to institute any such mandate throughout the pandemic, elicited cheers at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past week when she criticized Covid-19 restrictions and said that Dr. Anthony Fauci was “wrong a lot.” On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that family members of Noem received more than $600,000 from a state grant program that directed federal pandemic relief to small businesses.
Trump Officials’ 2017 Military Flights to Mar-a-Lago
We recently obtained records from the Department of Defense detailing a number of trips taken by cabinet and White House officials on military airplanes during the first year of Trump’s presidency. Top administration aides had been frequently criticized for taxpayer-funded travel excesses, but the documents are notable in how hard the administration seemingly worked to obscure them from public eyes. Read more here about how we got the documents and what they show.
OMB Organizational Chart
We obtained a position directory for the Office of Management and Budget that was current as of October 2020. Up until now, the only publicly available organizational chart for OMB had been from the Obama era.
Ohio Education Official’s Participation in Jan. 6 Rally
Ohio Board of Education member Kirsten Hill participated in the rally that preceded the Capitol attack, and promoted a bus trip to the event through a local page she runs. We obtained her communications about the event.
Secret Service Call Logs
We requested call logs of top Secret Service officials from Jan. 6, and were told recently by the agency that it had no such records. Members of the Secret Service were at the Capitol with Pence that day, so we’re skeptical.
Fulton DA’s investigation into Trump heads to grand jury (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Senior diplomatic security official removed from Afghanistan role after declaring ‘death of America’ when Trump lost election (CNN)
U.S. diplomat openly calls for Christian nation-states, rails against Jews (Politico)
Missouri ordered to pay legal fees after losing licensing fight with Planned Parenthood (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Biden won’t penalize Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi’s killing, fearing relations breach (New York Times)
Three Percenter truck at Capitol on Jan. 6 belongs to Hitler-quoting rep’s husband (Daily Beast)
Rep. Ronny Jackson made sexual comments, drank alcohol and took Ambien while working as White House physician, Pentagon watchdog finds (CNN)
Rep. Steven Palazzo of Mississippi is being investigated for using campaign funds on his waterfront house (New York Times)
Tanden withdraws as budget nominee in Biden’s first Cabinet defeat (Washington Post)
Labor watchdog backs calls for binding Covid-19 workplace safety standard, slams Trump’s policy (Politico)
Thousands of students reported ‘missing’ from school systems nationwide amid Covid-19 pandemic (ABC News)
The Trump administration quietly spent billions in hospital funds on Operation Warp Speed (STAT)
Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine as rivals team up to help Biden accelerate shots (Washington Post)
A leaked memo suggests Philly police use vehicle stops to get around stop-and-frisk reform (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Leaked government documents spotlight Biden’s child migrant dilemma (Axios)
Part of Investigation: