Newsletter: Texas Ruling on Anti-Trans Investigations, Louisiana’s ERIC Withdrawal, and Jeffrey Clark’s Disciplinary Trial

Last week, a Texas appeals court upheld injunctions blocking the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from investigating parents of transgender children receiving gender-affirming care. 

  • The ruling came in two lawsuits brought by LGBTQ+ families and advocates following Gov. Greg Abbott’s 2022 directive calling for the provision of gender-affirming care to be investigated as child abuse.
  • American Oversight had submitted amicus briefs in the lawsuits, detailing documents we obtained showing that DFPS staff interpreted Abbott’s directive as a new rule under state law and adopted new policies in response — despite Abbott and DFPS having argued that the directive’s implementation did not constitute an official “rule.” 

The records cited in the briefs include emails showing that in the days after Abbott’s directive, DFPS employees were directed to open new investigations into families of children receiving gender-affirming care — and were told not to discuss the cases or investigations over email or text.

  • The decision to uphold the injunctions in these cases is an important rejection of a policy targeting LGBTQ+ children and their families in Texas.
  • American Oversight is continuing to investigate threats to LGBTQ+ people, which have multiplied across the country in recent months and years — read more here.

Jeffrey Clark Violated Attorney Ethics Rules, D.C. Bar Finds
Last week, we wrote about ongoing efforts to hold accountable those who sought to overturn the 2020 election — including Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department lawyer who sought to use the power of the department to advance Trump’s 2020 election lies.

  • This week, the D.C. Bar’s disciplinary committee found that Clark had violated ethics rules in trying to keep Trump in power. The investigators who brought the charges said they intend to advocate for Clark’s disbarment.
  • Clark had faced two disciplinary charges related to his efforts to help overturn the 2020 election results: attempting to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty” and attempting to “engage in conduct that would seriously interfere with the administration of justice.”
  • The D.C. Bar panel’s ruling came after six days of testimony, including from former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former Deputy AG Richard Donoghue, and former Deputy White House Counsel Pat Philbin.

Clark was implicated in the federal election interference case against Trump as “Co-conspirator 4.” We previously uncovered records related to Clark’s post-election scheme to falsely tell state officials that the Justice Department was investigating “significant concerns” that could change the 2020 results, as well as his communications in the days after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

  • Among the records we obtained were an email Clark sent to Rosen and Donoghue on Dec. 28, 2020, which included an attached draft letter that Clark wanted the Justice Department to send to lawmakers in Georgia. The letter was mentioned in the federal indictment of Trump as well as the Fulton County, Ga., indictment.
  • In an email sent two days after the attack on the Capitol, as Clark was preparing to leave the administration, he told Rosen that “reasonable minds can differ.” Rosen forwarded the email to another senior DOJ official, writing, “It appears he still does not recognize how harmful his actions and proposals were.”

On the Records

Louisiana’s Misinformation-Influenced Withdrawal from ERIC
Text messages we obtained, reported on by Votebeat, provide more evidence of how a falsehood-riddled article on a right-wing website influenced Louisiana’s withdrawal from the nonpartisan Electronic Registration Information Center in 2022. 

  • In January 2022, the Gateway Pundit — a fringe right-wing website — published a series of articles with false claims about ERIC, the voter-list maintenance system. Shortly after the first article was published, Kyle Ardoin, then the Louisiana secretary of state, announced that he would leave ERIC, later claiming it had “nothing to do” with the articles.

The records we obtained suggest otherwise. The day of the first article, Ardoin texted spokesman John Tobler, “I think we suspend our membership in ERIC until we can investigate what they are doing with our data.”

  • After Ardoin’s office announced Louisiana’s departure from ERIC, Ardoin asked Tobler and another staffer what news outlets had covered the withdrawal. “What did the Gateway Pundit say?” he asked after Tobler sent a list. “I am sure they went all drama on it.”
  • We previously published documents suggesting a strong connection between the initial Gateway Pundit article and Ardoin’s decision. Learn more about those documents and more in our in-depth report outlining the campaign to dismantle ERIC.

Other Stories We’re Following

Election Denial and Threats to Democracy
  • Justin Heap won’t say if Arizona’s elections were fair, but he’s voted like an election denier (News from the States)
  • Republicans pushing to embrace mail-in voting encounter widespread resistance (NBC News)
  • Emails reveal Michigan auditor general helped write GOP draft requesting 2020 election audit (Michigan Advance)
  • Secretary of state wants absentee ballot restrictions, despite lack of voter fraud (Louisiana Illuminator)
  • US election workers face thousands of threats — so why so few prosecutions? (Guardian)
  • Loser in Shasta County supervisor’s election files lawsuit against winner, county clerk (Redding Record Searchlight)
Voting Rights
  • GOP, Trump build on immigration fears to push voting restrictions in states (News from the States)
  • Nebraska lawmakers vote against Trump-fueled push to change electoral vote system (Washington Post)
  • Voting rights organization highlights increase in Ohio provisional ballots rejected over ID (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • Florida voting advocates are fighting to keep the voting rolls accurate (WFSU)
  • Civil rights groups file suit against Alabama law criminalizing some absentee ballot assistance (Alabama Reflector)
  • Texas counties facing surprise surcharge from voter registration software vendor (Texas Tribune)
  • Tarrant elections office will switch to prenumbered ballots following party-line vote (Fort Worth Report)
  • Kansas GOP lawmakers revive a plan to stop giving voters 3 extra days to return mail ballots (Associated Press)
In the States
  • Cochise County election director resigns (AZPM)
  • Police Officers Association of Michigan endorses Trump during Grand Rapids event on border security (Michigan Advance)
  • Milwaukee police seek ‘open source intelligence tool’ for RNC (Wisconsin Examiner)
  • Judge blocks request to depose top DeSantis aides in travel records lawsuit (Politico)
  • Freedom Caucuses push for conservative state laws, but getting attention is their big success (Stateline)
National News
  • No Labels abandons 2024 presidential campaign effort (Wall Street Journal)
  • Legal experts worry about presidential abuse of the Insurrection Act. Here’s why (NPR)
  • America is divided over major efforts to rewrite child labor laws (Washington Post)
  • New rule strengthening federal job protections could counter Trump promises to remake the government (Associated Press)
LGBTQ Rights
  • Nebraska’s proposed transgender athlete bill is constitutional, state AG says (The Hill)
  • Gov. Kim Reynolds signs ‘religious freedom’ law at private event hosted by Christian group (Des Moines Register)
  • Gov. Tony Evers vetoes bill aimed at trans and non-binary athletes (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • As drag shows go ‘mainstream,’ some red states look to restrict them (News from the States)
Abortion and Reproductive Rights
  • Florida Supreme Court allows one of nation’s strictest abortion bans to take effect (Washington Post)
  • Republicans are rushing to defend IVF. The anti-abortion movement hopes to change their minds. (Politico)
  • Ohio law banning nearly all abortions now invalid after referendum, attorney general says (Associated Press)
  • Kansas Legislature sends governor bill outlawing abortion coercion with maximum 25-year sentence (Kansas Reflector)
  • Montana Supreme Court rewrites abortion ballot language; signature gathering moves closer (Montana Free Press)
  • Ellsworth subpoenas abortion initiative from Secretary of State after court says it can skip review (News from the States)
  • Tennessee lawmakers pass bill to require anti-abortion group video, or comparable, in public schools (Associated Press)
Threats to Education
  • America has legislated itself into competing red, blue versions of education (Washington Post)
  • Inside University of Wisconsin’s budget deal: Pressure, predictions and last-minute maneuvering (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • State Board of Education again delays discussion on whether to approve new Native studies course (Texas Tribune)
  • UT-Austin announces round of firings in latest step to comply with Texas’ DEI ban (Texas Tribune)
  • Which states are restricting, or requiring, lessons on race, sex and gender (Washington Post)
Government Transparency and Public Records Law
  • Judge sanctions state in foster care lawsuit over deleted emails, but says it wasn’t intentional (West Virginia Watch)
  • Kansas newspaper publisher sues over police raid, claiming retaliation (Washington Post)
  • HCC ordered to pay at least $281K in open records fight tied to $100M racial discrimination lawsuit (Houston Chronicle)
  • Louisiana lawmakers advance bill to let local gov’ts hide records from public (Louisiana Illuminator)
  • Company helping immigrants in detention ordered to pay $811M+ in lawsuit alleging deceptive tactics (Associated Press)
  • Texas, Biden administration take their battle over new immigration law to federal appeals court (Texas Tribune)
  • Construction is under way on Texas’ border military base camp in Eagle Pass. What we know. (Austin American-Statesman)
  • Texas National Guard member charged with human smuggling after high-speed chase near the border (Texas Tribune)
Trump Accountability
  • Reps. Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar subpoenaed in Arizona probe of Trump fake electors (Politico)
  • Judge rejects Trump’s bid to get Georgia election subversion case dismissed on free speech grounds (CNN)
  • Judge Cannon shoots down Trump’s presidential records act claim (Washington Post)
  • NY judge denies Trump’s bid to delay hush money trial (Axios)
  • The church of Trump: How he’s infusing Christianity into his movement (New York Times)