The Latest from Wisconsin
This month, American Oversight learned that the Wisconsin Assembly’s Office of Special Counsel — the office, led by Michael Gableman, conducting the problematic review of the 2020 election — has been “routinely” deleting records it deems “irrelevant or useless.”
On Thursday, the day after we asked the court to bar OSC from continuing this alarming and unlawful practice, the judge ordered the office “not to delete or destroy any record” that could be responsive to public records requests we previously filed.
- American Oversight learned about the record destruction from a letter that had accompanied a production of records, which were released in response to our litigation.
- In the letter, OSC’s counsel indicated that the office’s position was that it was not generally required to retain records absent pending records requests — a view that is in clear violation of Wisconsin law.
Of course, disdain for government transparency isn’t the only problematic aspect of Gableman’s election review. Recently, several documents were posted to the review’s official website that provide yet more evidence of the partisan biases that have characterized the investigation from the beginning.
- American Oversight published an analysis of what the records reveal.
- In addition to payment information and contracts, as well as further communications with prominent election deniers, there are also what appear to be notes about various public employees and their perceived political leanings.
- The notes include comments such as “there are indicators that she is probably a Democrat” alongside details about officials’ lifestyles and physical appearance. “Liberally deplorable” is also used.
- A lawsuit alleging that members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission allowed voter fraud to occur includes a placeholder name of “Roddy Republican” as the plaintiff.
The Jan. 6 Investigation
Also this week, the New York Times reported that in the days after the Jan. 6 attack, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Kevin McCarthy said that President Trump was responsible for inciting the riot and needed to be removed from politics. McCarthy even said he would ask Trump to resign, pointing out that he would likely be impeached. Of course, that resolve didn’t last.
- McCarthy denied the story — but on Thursday night the reporters published a tape of him making those remarks in a call with Rep. Liz Cheney, whom he later ousted from House Republican leadership for her criticism of Trump.
- The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack is working to piece together the details of Trump’s final call to Vice President Pence prior to the attack on Jan. 6, but as Politico reports, “one crucial gap remains.”
- Members of the committee are also reportedly considering rewriting the Insurrection Act, which gives the president power to deploy the military in response to a rebellion — something many of Trump’s far-right supporters had wanted him to do to help him stay in power.
- Lawyer John Eastman, who aided Trump’s efforts to overturn his loss, continues to withhold thousands of documents from the committee. And Phil Waldron, the retired Army colonel who also aided in those efforts, is suing to block the committee from obtaining his phone records.
As we talked about last week, Eastman recently met with Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Vos to push for lawmakers to undertake the legally impossible move of “decertifying” the 2020 election. He’s not alone:
- From the New York Times: “In statehouses and courtrooms across the country, as well as on right-wing news outlets, allies of Mr. Trump … are pressing for states to pass resolutions rescinding Electoral College votes for President Biden and to bring lawsuits that seek to prove baseless claims of large-scale voter fraud. Some of those allies are casting their work as a precursor to reinstating the former president.”
- See also: The Arizona Mirror takes a look at how lies about the election are figuring strongly in political races in Arizona.
Here are other headlines related to the stolen-election lie and the Jan. 6 investigation:
- Read: Mark Meadows’ texts with Mike Lee and Chip Roy about efforts to overturn 2020 election (CNN)
- Ginni Thomas also texted Meadows about another friend who shared election fraud conspiracies (CNN)
- Union wants a judge to throw out a finding that Republican fake electors from Wisconsin violated no laws (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
- In a D.C. jail, Jan. 6 defendants awaiting trial are forming bitter factions (NPR)
- Mike Lindell willing to testify in Jan. 6 committee investigation (Newsweek)
- The six states that could determine whether Republicans steal the 2024 election (New Republic)
- Pennsylvania’s Lycoming County commissioners float possible 2020 election audit (Williamsport Sun-Gazette)
The Coronavirus Pandemic
On Monday, a federal judge in Florida struck down the mask mandate for airplanes and other public transportation. The Justice Department is appealing the decision following the CDC’s determination that the mandate was necessary, but the appeal’s fate in the conservative-leaning Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit is not certain.
Case counts have increased by nearly 50 percent in the last two weeks, likely an undercount thanks to unreported home tests. Hospitalizations are remaining at a daily average of around 15,000 and deaths are decreasing.
- It may be as late as June before the administration authorizes a vaccine for children under 5.
- Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy might be driving concerns about other immunizations, experts say, raising the risk of illnesses like measles and meningitis among children.
- Despite a federal vaccine mandate for health care workers, many nursing home employees are still unvaccinated. A ProPublica investigation found that workers have claimed questionable medical exemptions from the mandate.
- Some experts say that the Biden administration’s shift from preventing infections ignores the risks of long-term complications.
- Chronic absence in schools skyrocketed during the pandemic, with rates continuing to worsen for low-income students.
- A testing company based in Los Angeles was accused of faking the results of more than 500 Covid-19 tests, falsely notifying customers that their results were negative. The company is paying a $22.5 million settlement.
- A new analysis found that more than 1 in every 200 children in New York City has lost a parent or caregiver to Covid-19, a rate nearly double the national rate. Black, Hispanic, and Asian children in the city were about three times more likely to lose a parent or caregiver than white children.
On the Records
Mask Mandate Guidance in Mississippi
We filed public records requests with the Mississippi governor’s office and the state’s health department for guidance and communications related to mask mandates and Covid-19. While the Mississippi Department of Health provided more than 2,200 pages, including reports on scientific studies and other data, the governor’s office said it had no records responsive to our request. Last summer, Gov. Tate Reeves declined to issue a statewide mask mandate as Covid-19 cases surged in the state.
Other Stories We’re Following
- Examining nearly two decades of taxpayer-funded border operations (ProPublica)
- A firm tied to Trump lawyer John Eastman received $10,000 from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s campaign (Business Insider)
- Biden considers delaying pandemic border policy repeal (Axios)
- Biden admin to rescind Trump ‘conscience’ rule for health workers (Politico)
- Infuriating climate activists, Biden expands oil drilling on public land (ABC News)
- Biden administration reverses Trump-era rule limiting scrutiny of environmental impacts (Politico)
- U.S. immigration agency explores data loophole to obtain information on deportation targets (Guardian)
- The veteran who founded We Build the Wall pleaded guilty to fraud and agreed to pay back more than $17 million (BuzzFeed News)
- Supreme Court rules on stolen art, signs, and Puerto Rico’s status (New York Times)
In the States
- Wisconsin Supreme Court approves Republican-drawn legislative maps (New York Times)
- Conditions at Mississippi’s most notorious prison violate the Constitution, DOJ says (ProPublica)
- Families of trans kids in Alabama prepare for health-care ban (Washington Post)
- Ducey announces American Governors’ Border Strike Force made up of Republican-led states (Arizona Republic)
- Arizona school bills on student records and library books pass Senate (Arizona Republic)
- Florida rejects math textbooks for ‘prohibited’ topics including critical race theory (Washington Post)
- Florida Senate passes congressional map giving GOP a big edge (New York Times)
- Florida lawmakers vote to dismantle Disney’s special privileges over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ (Politico)