President Donald Trump has been unable or unwilling to stand up to actual foreign aggression — including Russian bounties paid to target American troops in Afghanistan — but new documents obtained by American Oversight underscore how the White House had no trouble leaping into action to request military grade equipment and personnel to respond to American protesters on the streets of the nation’s capital.
On June 5, following days of protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd, the Secret Service sought reinforcements from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including a helicopter capable of delivering a “quick reaction force” of commandos, to help secure the White House.
American Oversight obtained the letter from the Secret Service to the head of CBP through a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records agreements between federal agencies to share surveillance information about the protests.
The Secret Service’s request came just a week after agents had rushed Trump to a secure bunker after protesters jumped or knocked over the temporary, outer barricades around the executive mansion, and just days after the National Guard had deployed two helicopters to aggressively disperse protesters in downtown Washington, DC. On that night, June 1, federal agents used rubber pellets and chemical munitions to eject peaceful protesters from a park behind the White House, clearing the way for Trump to stage a photo op in front of a nearby church.
In a story posted on Thursday, the Washington Post reported that although a helicopter was not delivered, a second Secret Service request — for aerial monitoring of protesters in Washington, DC — was ultimately fulfilled, with CBP providing information from a surveillance aircraft. The Post noted that “Washington is the latest example of cities where CBP deployed surveillance aircraft in the skies in recent months to monitor demonstrations.”
American Oversight has been investigating the response to the nationwide protests against police brutality and, in particular, the use of federal law enforcement agents and military-style tactics to suppress or monitor demonstrations on the streets of American cities.
Earlier this week, we sued six federal agencies — including CBP, the Justice Department, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — after they failed to respond to FOIA requests for records documenting the Trump administration’s protest response. As we wrote when we filed the suit, “rubber bullets and tear gas don’t fire themselves, and federal agents don’t fan out across the country without orders.” There are still far too many open questions about the actions and authorities of the federal agents deployed to Washington, DC, and Portland, Ore., even as further deployments are already under way through the Justice Department’s “Operation Legend.”
You can track our full investigation into the protest response here. And here’s what else we’ve been working on this week:
Investigating the Sabotage of the Post Office: On Thursday morning, Trump finally admitted what had been clear for months: He has been deliberately sabotaging the United States Postal Service to prevent Americans from voting by mail in the upcoming November election. Trump has previously stated his belief that widespread mail-in voting would harm his reelection chances, and he has repeatedly and falsely claimed that voting by mail would lead to election fraud.
We’ve been investigating Trump’s interference at the Postal Service, including actions by the new postmaster general — a Trump campaign donor — to slow down the delivery of mail, threatening the ability of voters to safely participate in the election. In June, we sued USPS to compel the release of records of political interference, and we’re continuing to demand answers.
Senate Investigation Launders Foreign Disinformation: Sen. Ron Johnson, the chair of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, has been conducting a nakedly partisan investigation that he himself has admitted is intended to damage the candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden. Using the trappings of a formal Senate investigation, Johnson has provided a vehicle for foreign actors — including several directly linked to Russia who have openly stated their intent to interfere in the election to aid Trump — to launder disinformation about the presumptive Democratic nominee.
We joined the Center for Media and Democracy to submit a complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee, calling for an investigation into Johnson’s abuse of his official position to advance discredited, political attacks in violation of Senate rules and standards of conduct. Read the full complaint here.
Miller Ally Gave Misleading or False Testimony Under Oath: Justice Department lawyer Gene Hamilton may not be a household name, but he, like White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, has been a critical figure in some of the Trump administration’s most severe anti-immigration policies and actions. One of those actions — the attempt to end Temporary Protected Status for Haitian immigrants — was challenged in a lawsuit in 2018, requiring Hamilton to testify as a fact witness. And according to records obtained by American Oversight, during this deposition Hamilton made misleading claims and potentially lied under oath.
We called on the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General to investigate, writing: “This lack of candor, which would be considered unacceptable by any witness in a legal proceeding, is even more troubling when made by an officer of the court and a senior federal government official in the Department of Justice.” Read the records we uncovered and see our letter to the inspector general.
Part of Investigation: