Six Months of American Oversight: Key Successes in Holding the Administration Accountable

American Oversight today celebrated the six month anniversary of its launch on March 13th of this year. In those six months, the nonpartisan ethics watchdog group has moved quickly to identify and expose ethical conflicts and misconduct across the Trump administration – including obtaining Attorney General Sessions’s security clearance form and forcing the Justice Department to refute President Trump’s false ‘wiretapping’ allegations.

“American Oversight has a simple mission: stand up for the public’s fundamental right to know what their government is doing, and to counter unprecedented obstruction with a willingness to go to court to enforce that right,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “Congress is looking the other way despite unprecedented conflicts of interest and misconduct in the Trump administration, so it’s up to citizens to demand accountability. We have filed nearly 400 FOIA requests to three dozen agencies and published thousands of pages of government documents for the public to see. While we hope Congress will start doing its job, we aren’t optimistic, and we’re going to keep working to shine a light on this administration’s actions.”

Six months of American Oversight – key accomplishments:

  • Forced the Department of Justice to refute President Trump’s unfounded wiretapping claims
  • Secured the release of excerpts of Attorney General Sessions’s background check form showing the omission of contacts with Russian officials
  • Brought transparency to the secret health care negotiations with the release of thousands of pages of communications between the administration and Congress
  • Published resumes and staff lists for Trump appointees across the administration showing widespread cronyism and conflicts of interest

Six months of American Oversight – by the numbers:

  • 394 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted
  • 15 lawsuits filed against the administration
  • 11 staff members, including lawyers, communications specialists and support staff
  • 8,200+ pages of documents received in response to FOIA requests

Six months of American Oversight – in headlines:

MSNBC – Rachel Maddow Show (September 12): Cover-ups, excuses, denials swamp Trump camp on Russia contact

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Newsweek (September 2): Trump’s Claim that Obama Wiretapped His Campaign is False: U.S. Department of Justice

In a stunning filing last night, the Department of Justice stated in a court case that neither the FBI nor its National Security Division ever wiretapped Trump Tower, contradicting a bombshell claim President Trump made in a series of early morning tweets on March 4.

The document is the first time the Department of Justice has officially denied the substance of the Tweets. Former FBI Director James Comey had already denied that the FBI ever wiretapped Trump.


The statement came in a court filing Friday night in response to a Freedom of Information Act suit filed by the government watchdog group American Oversight, which had requested “Warrant applications or records requesting a court order to intercept communications related to candidate Donald Trump, Trump Tower, entities housed in Trump Tower, or any person affiliated with Mr. Trump’s campaign; court orders approving or rejecting those requests; records of those wiretaps, and; communications between the FBI or DOJ and Congress relating to these issues.”

Washington Post (July 13): Justice Department releases portion of Sessions security clearance form claiming no contacts with foreign officials

The Justice Department on Thursday released a single redacted page from Attorney General Jeff Session’s security clearance form from November that indicated he had not had any contact with a foreign government official in the past seven years.

That contradicts his later admission that he had met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, twice last year. At the time, Sessions was a U.S. senator and an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The meetings occurred in July and September.


The watchdog group American Oversight, whose lawsuit forced the disclosure of the form, said that FBI investigators should have been told about the meetings. The group learned Thursday in court that the bureau did not turn up the information on its own.

POLITICO (August 31): Trump civil rights official listed Clinton attacks as qualification on resume

The controversial attorney who runs the Education Department’s civil rights division cited her work attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton at the top of her resume when she applied to work for President Donald Trump, according to a copy of the document obtained by POLITICO.

Candice Jackson, who brought a group of women who had accused President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to a presidential debate last year between Trump and Hillary Clinton, listed that event as one of her “top five qualifications” for working in the administration.


POLITICO obtained the résumé from American Oversight, a watchdog group that acquired it using a Freedom of Information Act request. It’s not clear whether the document was submitted directly to the Education Department or by another means, such as to the Trump transition team.

Melanie Sloan, senior adviser at American Oversight, said Jackson’s hiring is an example of Trump’s “clear pattern of filling important roles in his administration with ideologues and political hacks.

Washington Post (August 18): Here is the official résumé of the person Trump put in charge of federal housing in New York

The person President Trump tapped this summer to oversee one of the largest regions under the Department of Housing & Urban Development is a longtime Trump family employee with no experience in housing, according to the one-page résumé Lynne Patton submitted as part of the transition.

Patton began working for Trump’s son Eric in 2009 as the vice president of his foundation and as his primary aide. She oversaw all aspects of his business, charity and personal obligations. That included his home and spousal responsibilities as well as coordinating events.


American Oversight, formed by a group of lawyers after Trump’s inauguration to monitor the administration’s ethics and expose any potential conflicts of interest, obtained Patton’s official résumé through a Freedom of Information Act request of the résumés of political appointees across various federal agencies.

Mic (June 28): Ethics group sues for Trump International Hotel records ahead of Republican Party fundraiser

Wednesday night’s big GOP dinner has President Donald Trump’s name all over it — and ethics watchdogs have a problem with that.

As Trump prepares to attend a major fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, American Oversight, a non-partisan accountability group, announced it’s suing “to force the release of communications between the Trump Organization and the government agency that manages the taxpayer-owned building.”

American Oversight, which is run by Democratic former government officials, filed suit in federal court against the General Services Administration for information it requested, but didn’t get, under the Freedom of Information Act.

Charleston Post and Courier (July 31): Washington advocacy group targets South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, tells him to ‘put his country ahead of his political party’

On Monday, a Washington-based organization called American Oversight launched a roughly $2,000 digital ad buy in South Carolina calling on Gowdy to do more aggressive oversight of President Donald Trump.

Graphics gracing a variety of social media platforms and websites — including that of Gowdy’s hometown paper, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal — will link to an open letter and petition for the congressman to “thoroughly and impartially investigate wrongdoing by the Trump administration.”

“As the new Chair of the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Gowdy has an opportunity to set aside politics and use his power to hold the Trump administration accountable for its troubling pattern of ethical conflicts and corruption,” American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said in a statement. “With members of Congress back in their districts, we’re going to make sure that Representative Gowdy hears loud and clear that the American people want him to do his job and put his country ahead of his political party.”

Arizona Republic (June 16): Group sues to access details of President Donald Trump’s border wall

Two years ago this week, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president and declared what would become a signature campaign promise: that he would “build a great wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border.

A non-partisan ethics watchdog group is marking that anniversary with a lawsuit against multiple federal agencies seeking details about the proposed border wall.

American Oversight’s lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, accuses the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protections, the Department of Interior and Office of Management and Budget of not responding to a dozen of its requests for information under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

“Two years after Donald Trump first announced that he was going to build a big, beautiful wall on the southern border from sea to shining sea, we still know next to nothing about that project, even though the administration is barreling ahead and making it a reality,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight.

The Intercept (May 23): Homeland Security Hires Anti-Islam Activist Katharine Gorka as Trump Makes Overtures to Muslim States

Donald Trump made overtures toward the Islamic world during his visit to Saudi Arabia, softening his outward stance on Islam, but his administration recently appointed a recognized anti-Muslim campaigner.

Katharine Gorka, a controversial national security analyst and anti-Muslim activist, has been named as an “adviser” to the Department of Homeland Security’s policy office, after serving on President Trump’s transition team for the department. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Gorka extensively criticized DHS for teaching employees — wrongly, in her view — that Islam is a religion of peace.

Gorka’s appointment is listed in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the watchdog group American Oversight. Her title, as of April 7, is listed as adviser to the department’s office of policy. The documents also list a previous “temporary transitional” appointment in the chief of staff’s office, with a pay grade listed as GS-15, the highest standard pay for a federal civil servant, indicating a salary of at least $8,600 a month.

USA Today (March 13): Legal watchdog launches to hound Trump agencies

Concerned by the shortage of government experience and early missteps by Trump administration officials —including President Trump — a group of lawyers is launching a watchdog organization that will seek to track the administration’s ethics and expose potential conflicts, fraud or other wrongdoing.


“We were very troubled to see in the wake of the election all the red flags going up about how this executive branch was going to be run, and how Congress was reacting, which was essentially to put its head in the sand or only act when really forced to do so over egregious matters,” said, Austin Evers, a State Department lawyer under Obama and now executive director of American Oversight.