Perhaps unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump’s three-day stay at the hospital for Covid-19 treatment and the frightening outbreak at the White House have done little to moderate his antagonistic politics or even make him take the pandemic seriously.
Rather than warn of the danger of Covid-19, Trump admonished people not to be “afraid of it.” Eschewing the opportunity to tell the public about the importance of wearing face masks, he removed his own before walking back into the White House after his return from the hospital. And instead of acknowledging the more than 210,000 Americans who have died from the pandemic under his watch, he spent 24 hours firing off blustering tweets calling for Attorney General William Barr to lock up his political adversaries, including Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, for attempting a “coup.”
Meanwhile, he continues, with the help of Barr’s Justice Department, to promote unfounded claims about the risks of voting by mail. But the coronavirus outbreak at the White House and stories from around the country make clear that the real dangers to Americans’ health and democratic participation are ongoing voter-suppression efforts and the Trump administration’s recklessly irresponsible management of the pandemic.
Since the news broke late last week of Trump adviser Hope Hicks’ positive Covid-19 test, followed late that same night by the president’s announcement that he and the first lady had also tested positive, the list of confirmed cases among White House officials and members of Congress has grown at an alarming rate. And the disdain for mask-wearing among officials — including, notably, at the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett — has led to infection among journalists covering the White House as well as White House housekeeping staff.
We’re now less than a month away from Nov. 3, and the president’s fear-mongering over voting by mail coupled with his (and Vice President Mike Pence’s) refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should Biden win have created a dangerous mix. Now, in an extraordinary weakening of decades-long policy, the Justice Department is allowing federal prosecutors who suspect election fraud on the part of government officials to take public investigative actions, even if they could affect an election’s outcome.
The exception to the longstanding policy of non-interference with elections specifically mentions U.S. Postal Service and military employees, which former Justice Department official Vanita Gupta said “may be creating a predicate for the Justice Department to make inflated announcements about mail-in vote fraud and the like in the run-up to the election.” The department has already been caught pushing that unfounded narrative; late last month, a U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania announced that the department was investigating a case of nine discarded military ballots that the state’s top election official has said was a mistake, and not fraud.
Many voters have already received their absentee ballots, and ballot drop boxes have been installed across the country. And early voting has started in a number of states, including in Florida. The Sunshine State’s voter registration, originally Monday, Oct. 5, was earlier this week extended by one day because of issues with the state’s online voter registration system (OVRS) — issues that should have been anticipated because of trouble in previous years.
American Oversight obtained a receipt from Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland — the same resort where the U.S. military spent $184,000 during trips — showing Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson spent more than £1,000 (nearly $1,300) in a single day while visiting the resort in July 2018.
Kushner’s ‘Silver Bullet’ Message: We published emails showing that on May 15, Jared Kushner, who was tasked with managing the supply chain of personal protective equipment, forwarded what he called “interesting intel from a good source” about the importance of masks in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. The forwarded information said that “masks really work” and that they were “the silver bullet in Asia.” You can read other emails we obtained in that set of documents over on our Twitter.
‘We Need to Take Away Children’: On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that in 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Session told federal prosecutors along the U.S.-Mexico border, “We need to take away children” to deter immigrants from entering the country. According to the Times, top Justice Department officials were a “driving force” behind the family separation, despite Sessions’ and others’ efforts to distance themselves from the cruel policy. You can see how the administration’s internal actions matched up (or didn’t) with its public statements at our Timeline of the Trump Administration’s Family-Separation Policy.
Barr’s Trip to Italy: In September 2019, Attorney General Barr traveled to Italy with U.S. Attorney John Durham to seek help in Durham’s investigation of the origins of the Russia probe. We obtained his expenses from this trip.
Georgia Voting: Emails we obtained from Georgia, and reported on by Time, show that a Gwinnett County official told staff designing a voting procedure for detainees that “it is the voter’s responsibility to ask for the opportunity to vote in the 2020 election cycle.”
‘Outside Agitators’: Early this summer, Barr claimed that “outside radicals and agitators” were hijacking racial justice protests. We filed a FOIA request for assessments of the involvement of such “far left extremists” — the Justice Department told us it could locate “no responsive records.”
FBI Says Michigan Anti-Government Group Plotted to Kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (New York Times)
Delayed Homeland Security Report Warns of ‘Lethal’ White Supremacy (New York Times)
Health officials scrambling to produce Trump’s ‘last-minute’ drug cards by Election Day (Politico)
Trump’s spy chief releases new batch of Russia documents to Justice Department (Axios)
USPS says it’s too close to the election for most of Congress to inspect facilities (Washington Post)
Exxon’s Plan for Surging Carbon Emissions Revealed in Leaked Documents (Bloomberg)
Trump Appointee to VOA Reporters: Criticizing Trump Is a Conflict of Interest (The Intercept)
Sonny Perdue fuels ethics scrutiny as Trump’s rural envoy (Politico)
FDA Releases Covid-19 Vaccine Guidelines Following American Oversight FOIA Request (American Oversight)
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