News Roundup: The Mar-a-Lago Search, Jan. 6, and American Oversight’s Lawsuits in Virginia and Texas

The Mar-a-Lago Search

The FBI conducted a court-authorized search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club on Monday, reportedly looking for possible classified documents — documents that according to Washington Post sources were related to nuclear weapons.

  • Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday gave a public statement in which he said he had personally authorized the decision to seek a search warrant. Meanwhile, the Justice Department filed a motion to unseal the warrant and the property receipt from the search, an action Trump has said he would “not oppose.” (He has until 3 p.m. ET on Friday to object.)
  • The search was followed swiftly by an escalation of violent rhetoric among far-right Trump supporters, with conservative media like Fox News adopting dark and dramatic language in their defense of Trump. On Thursday, an armed man attempted to breach the FBI field office in Cincinnati. He was later shot and killed by police after a chase, and investigators are looking into whether he had ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump’s potential mishandling of classified documents — hardly a new allegation against Trump — by failing to turn them over to the National Archives and Records Administration could be a violation of the Presidential Records Act. 

  • In May, we sued NARA for records related to the seizure of 15 boxes of documents and other items from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. The lawsuit is still ongoing, and could help shed light on what Trump removed from the White House — and why.

In the States

This week, American Oversight and the law firm Ballard Spahr filed a lawsuit against Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin for the release of records related to his “inherently divisive concepts” tip line.

  • Youngkin had announced the email tip line in January, based on his executive order banning the teaching of “divisive concepts” like critical race theory (which his order did not define).
  • We want to know how his administration has acted on these “tips,” and are seeking emails sent by the tip line or by Youngkin staff in response, protocols for handling tips and other emails, and other related communications.

In our lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, we filed a motion on Thursday for default judgment against Paxton. Unlike Abbott, Paxton had failed to file an answer to our lawsuit by the Aug. 1 deadline under Texas law.

  • Shortly after we submitted the motion for default judgment, Paxton’s office filed an answer to the lawsuit.
  • That lawsuit seeks the release of Abbott’s and Paxton’s official communications sent using personal email as well as their possible correspondence with pro-gun advocacy groups in the week after the Uvalde shooting. It also seeks the release of Paxton’s communications surrounding Jan. 6, 2021.

In Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called Michael Gableman — the lawyer he hired to review the 2020 election — “an embarrassment to this state.” The comment came after Vos narrowly won his primary for reelection, with Gableman having endorsed his challenger, a fellow election denier.

  • Vos reportedly later walked back the rebuke, saying that until February, Gableman had done “a really good job” of avoiding “partisan politics.”
  • Vos also said that he was looking for “a natural conclusion” to Gableman’s investigation, which stretched on for more than a year, with several extensions, hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money spent, and — as a judge recently said in one of American Oversight’s lawsuits for the release of public records from the inquiry — “absolutely no evidence of election fraud.”

Jan. 6 and Other Trump Investigations

The investigation of Trump’s handling of official documents isn’t the only significant inquiry he’s facing. During a four-hour deposition in New York state’s civil investigation of the Trump Organization, the former president repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and declined to answer questions. And in Fulton County, Ga., where a grand jury is investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in that state, Sen. Lindsey Graham is fighting a subpoena for his testimony. Here are headlines related to the investigations of Jan. 6: 

  • Mike Pompeo meets with January 6 committee (CNN)
  • Doug Mastriano meets with Select Committee investigating Jan. 6, for less than 15 minutes (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • DOJ pushes back against Eastman effort to reclaim his cellphone (Politico)
  • Trump national security advisor to meet with Jan. 6 committee (NBC News)
  • Elaine Chao, Trump’s former Transportation secretary, met with Jan. 6 committee as other cabinet members engage with panel (CNN)
  • Draft shows watchdog took months to report missing Secret Service texts (New York Times)
  • Seizure of congressman’s phone is latest sign of escalating election inquiry (New York Times)
  • Under fire, Homeland Security watchdog delays probe — with GOP help (Washington Post)

Covid-19 Pandemic News 

As part of its shifting approach to the pandemic, the CDC released new Covid-19 guidelines this week that remove routine-testing recommendations for asymptomatic people in certain settings — including “test-to-stay” policies in schools — and no longer recommend that unvaccinated individuals quarantine for five days if exposed to the virus. Instead, the CDC says all individuals should mask in public and get tested after five days if they are not showing symptoms. 

  • Hundreds of Americans still dying of Covid each day despite signs the latest surge may be slowing (ABC News
  • Covid-19 trends haven’t budged for weeks, and no one knows what’s next (CNN
  • ​​Biden administration planning to extend Covid emergency declaration (Politico)
  • Biden emerges from isolation again after second negative coronavirus test (New York Times)
  • Encouraged by right-wing doctor groups, desperate patients turn to ivermectin for long Covid (Stat News
  • Sen. Tim Kaine has long Covid. That’s not moving Congress to act (Politico)
  • A ‘staggering’ number of people couldn’t get care during the pandemic, poll finds (NPR)

On the Records

Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy reported on records obtained by American Oversight that show the level of access that top corporate donors to the Republican Attorneys General Association have had with South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who became the chair of that group in May 2021.

  • Emails sent by RAGA officials to Wilson’s office in advance of several requested meetings contain briefing information about the companies along with requests for Wilson to share certain information or messages.
  • According to CMD, several meetings took place in the days and weeks before those companies contributed to RAGA or to Wilson’s reelection campaign. Read more at Exposed by CMD.

Other Stories We’re Following

The Big Lie
  • Hunting for voter fraud, conspiracy theorists organize ‘stakeouts’ (New York Times)
  • Senate ‘audit’ leaders Doug Logan and Ben Cotton are facing a Michigan criminal probe (Arizona Mirror)
  • Trump allies resist testifying as Georgia election probe expands (Washington Post)
  • Subpoena preceded search warrant in push to retrieve material from Trump (New York Times)
  • What leaked audio tells us about Trump-linked ‘election integrity’ efforts (NPR)
  • GOP activist group instructs Michigan poll watchers to call 911 (Politico)
In the States
  • Karen Fann used Senate resources to campaign for Kari Lake (Arizona Mirror)
  • Maps in four states were ruled illegal gerrymanders. They’re being used anyway. (New York Times)
  • Polio virus found in New York City wastewater (Washington Post)
  • Trump-backed Michigan attorney general candidate involved in voting-system breach, documents show (Reuters)
National News
  • How the climate bill will make cleaner energy cheaper (New York Times)
  • The secret history of family separation (The Atlantic)
  • DHS to end ‘Remain in Mexico,’ allow asylum seekers to enter U.S. (Washington Post
  • In lawsuits, ex-employees offer harsh portrait of Project Veritas (New York Times)
  • New U.S. monkeypox vaccine strategy could be huge boost for supply, but much is unknown (CNN
  • This is the data Facebook gave police to prosecute a teenager for abortion (Vice)
  • Historians privately warn Biden that America’s democracy is teetering (Washington Post)
  • Twice accused of sexual assault, he was let go by Army commanders. He attacked again. (ProPublica)