On Thursday night, President Biden gave a primetime address from Philadelphia in which he warned of the growing danger to our democracy and urged the nation to fight against the extremism and lies that threaten it.
In the speech, Biden called out the stolen-election lie that continues to animate conservatives across the country: “Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election — either they win or they were cheated.”
It was that lie — the Big Lie — that fueled the attempts to overturn the will of the people, the Jan. 6 insurrection, the post-election onslaught of voting restrictions and attacks on civil rights, and the investigations and audits and conspiracy theories designed to keep the lie alive. And many of the election-denying people and groups involved in those efforts remain active and influential.
- American Oversight published a deep dive into records we obtained over the past year that show how outside groups and people that had been active in attempts to contest the 2020 election in Wisconsin were closely involved in the Assembly’s partisan election investigation. This includes the Thomas More Society, Michael Gableman’s new employer, a move he announced just days after he was fired as head of the investigation.
- Gableman gave a presentation at prominent election denier Mike Lindell’s “summit” in Missouri last week, during which Lindell urged supporters to flood local election offices with requests for ballot logs.
- “Election officials said that records requests … have increasingly been used by election deniers to disrupt the system,” reported ABC News. “With ten weeks to go until the 2022 midterms … preparations for the election are being hampered by onerous public information requests, ongoing threats against election workers, and dangerous misinformation campaigns being waged by activists still intent on contesting the 2020 presidential election.”
- Cleta Mitchell, the lawyer who aided former President Trump’s attempts to reverse his election loss, is helping lead a fight in North Carolina against new election rules. Mitchell also sits on the advisory board for the federal Election Assistance Commission — read about what we found regarding her controversial nomination.
- Fake electors — the Trump supporters who signed their names to false electoral certificates after the 2020 election — are working for high-profile campaigns in Arizona and Wisconsin.
- Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressured Wisconsin lawmakers to overturn the 2020 election results, reported the Washington Post on Thursday. (Read more about that below.)
- From Reuters: “A sheriff in Barry County, Michigan, already under state investigation for alleged involvement in an illegal breach of a vote-counting machine, sought warrants in July to seize other machines in an effort to prove former President Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.”
Trump claimed this week that he was “financially supporting” Jan. 6 defendants, and vowed to issue pardons — and an apology — to the rioters if he were elected.
- The select committee investigating the violent attack reportedly spent much of the August recess interviewing witnesses, including senior Trump administration officials, and now has issued a request for an interview with Newt Gingrich.
- “The request … cited evidence obtained by the committee showing Gingrich was in communication with senior advisers to President Donald Trump, including Jared Kushner and Jason Miller, regarding television advertisements that amplified false claims about fraud in the 2020 election,” reported the Washington Post.
- Rep. Adam Kinzinger told NBC News that the committee would be looking into the financing of the Capitol attack in the coming weeks.
Of course, another major investigation facing Trump right now is the inquiry into his handling of classified documents. Following Thursday’s hearing on Trump’s request that a special master be appointed to review the documents seized by the FBI last month, the federal judge considering the request left open the possibility of such an appointment but has not yet ruled. In response to Trump’s request, however, the Justice Department made a filing that outlined evidence suggesting that Trump and his lawyers may have obstructed justice — along with a photo of several folders labeled “Top Secret” laid out on the carpet at Mar-a-Lago.
One of those lawyers is Christina Bobb, the former right-wing TV host who promoted and fundraised for the Arizona Senate’s discredited “audit” of Maricopa County ballots.
- Read more about what American Oversight’s investigation uncovered about Bobb’s involvement in the “audit,” including her close work with Rudy Giuliani following the 2020 election.
American Oversight Lawsuits
Arizona ‘Audit’ Records: On Wednesday, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the Arizona Senate must disclose any non-legislative communications surrounding the Maricopa County election review. At issue was Senate President Karen Fann’s decision to assert legislative privilege as a means of withholding from public release broad categories of related documents.
- The court reversed a determination by the Arizona Court of Appeals about the application of the privilege, but the Senate may be instructed to provide more specific justifications for the records it claims are protected by legislative privilege after the case is reviewed again in the trial court.
- “This ruling makes it easier for officials to hide the truth about their motives and conduct from the public,” American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer said. Read more about the ruling here.
Senior ICE Trump Administration Officials’ Cell Phones: A federal judge on Thursday ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement must preserve in their present condition the mobile devices of seven former Trump administration officials.
- The court order — in American Oversight and the ACLU of Massachusetts’ ongoing lawsuit for records related to the federal criminal prosecution of a state court judge — grants the emergency motion filed by the two groups last week, and comes after ICE had admitted that it had instructed employees in 2017 to wipe their agency-issued phones upon departure. Read more about the case here.
On the Records
Gov. Abbott’s Anti-Trans Directive
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services leadership instructed staff not to communicate in writing about Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive ordering the agency to investigate families and facilities that provide gender-affirming care for transgender youth, according to emails we obtained that were reported on by the Texas Tribune.
- In February, Abbott ordered that the provision of such care should be investigated as child abuse.
- The records we obtained also show that lower-level employees were not authorized to handle such cases, and that staff were forbidden from sharing their opinions of the policy on social media.
- “Can we be forced to do this?” wrote one DFPS staffer. “This is an infringement on civil liberties. … We have trans workers at DFPS, what kind of message are we sending to them?”
Ginni Thomas’ Wisconsin Pressure Campaign
On Nov. 9, 2020, Ginni Thomas emailed Wisconsin Sen. Kathy Bernier and state Rep. Gary Tauchen: “Please take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen for our state.”
- We obtained records that include the email from Thomas urging Bernier to support this fake slates of electors; the message was identical to the emails Thomas sent to Arizona lawmakers, as reported by the Washington Post.
- We previously published records that showed Thomas’ ties to high-level Trump administration officials as well as emails that suggested Justice Clarence Thomas was in contact with Florida Gov. DeSantis.
Other Stories We’re Following
- Days before Mar-a-Lago subpoena, Trump lawyer claimed she scoured Trump’s office, closets and drawers (Politico)
- Inside Trump’s war on the National Archives (Washington Post)
- Federal judge to announce decision on Trump’s request for a special master (NPR)
- DOJ says review of seized Trump documents is already done, suggests request for watchdog came too late (CNBC)
Jan. 6 and the Big Lie
- Secret Service official at center of Jan. 6 committee probe retires (Politico)
- Oath Keepers attorney Kellye SoRelle arrested on Jan. 6 charges (Washington Post)
- Cipollone, Philbin expected to appear Friday before federal grand jury probing Jan. 6 (ABC News)
- Fox News stars questioned by election tech company in defamation case (Washington Post)
- Eastman appears before Atlanta-area grand jury probing Trump election scheme (Politico)
- L. Lin Wood, a Trump ally, is called to testify in election-meddling inquiry (New York Times)
- Judge delays Brian Kemp testimony in Georgia probe until after November election (Washington Post)
- Election data breach attracts Georgia investigators (New York Times)
- Some Republicans in Washington state cast a wary eye on an election security device (NPR)
- When an election denier becomes an election chief (Politico)
The Coronavirus Pandemic
- FDA authorizes Pfizer and Moderna Covid boosters targeted against Omicron strains (Stat News)
- Fall vaccination campaign will bring new shots, worse access (New York Times)
- Covid vaccine drive for youngest kids off to underwhelming start, data shows (Politico)
- The government will no longer be sending free Covid-19 tests to Americans (NPR)
- Trump officials’ own memoirs reveal Covid chaos (Washington Post)
- People in jail sued over Covid safety. The oversight didn’t last (Washington Post)
- The pandemic erased two decades of progress in math and reading (New York Times)
- Covid cases among students during the first week at Chicago schools are triple compared to last year (ABC News)
In the States
- Jackson water crisis deepens as state deploys National Guard (Washington Post)
- Virginia judge dismisses case that sought to limit book sales (New York Times)
- AP, other news outlets sue Uvalde officials for records (Associated Press)
- California budget to cover some out-of-state abortion travel (Associated Press)
- Michigan’s constitutional amendment seeking to enshrine abortion rights blocked from November ballot (CNN)
- An all-trimester abortion clinic prepares to open in Maryland, one of few nationally (NPR)
- Gov. Greg Abbott’s migrant busing program costs Texas $12 million (Texas Tribune)
- Judges dismiss 2 lawsuits after Michael Gableman’s subpoenas are withdrawn (Wisconsin State Journal)
- Judge declines to require hand-count of Arizona ballots in November election (NBC News)
- Arizona Supreme Court keeps voting rights measure off ballot (Associated Press)
- Judge: Disabled Wisconsin voters can get help with ballots (Associated Press)
- How concerns about racial disparities become allegations of voter fraud (Washington Post)
- Appeals court upholds Mississippi’s 1890 Jim Crow voting law (Mississippi Free Press)
- Death in Navy SEAL training exposes a culture of brutality, cheating and drugs (New York Times)
- U.S. life expectancy falls again in ‘historic’ setback (New York Times)
- Biden administration weighs saving monkeypox doses for potential smallpox outbreak (Politico)
- ‘Thanks, and God bless you’: Asylum-seekers allowed to enter U.S. after ‘Remain in Mexico’ ends (Texas Tribune)
- Tech tool offers police ‘mass surveillance on a budget’ (Associated Press)
- FBI facing ‘unprecedented’ MAGA threats: ‘Time to hunt fed bois’ (Daily Beast)
- Response to Trump search highlights violent rhetoric from the right (New York Times)