Thursday Night Owls: What the Trump regime meant for freedom of information requests

Thursday Night Owls: What the Trump regime meant for freedom of information requests

Night Owls is a themed open thread appearing at Daily Kos seven days a week.

Philip Eil at the Columbia Journalism Review writes—What the Trump administration meant for freedom of information requests:

THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP PROMISED AN EPIC TEST for the Freedom of Information Act. On one side, the powerful, yet deeply flawed, transparency law that turned 50 years old a few months before Trump’s 2016 election. On the other, a brash, dishonest, norm-flouting billionaire who had spent his adult life working in a privately-owned business. What would happen when Trump, the reality-star-turned-demagogue, became subject to the presidency’s transparency laws?

Alas, the FOIA world is notoriously slow-moving; historian and journalist Jon Wiener’s battle for John Lennon’s FBI file began with a request in 1981 and didn’t fully end until late 2006, when the bureau handed over the last 10 pages. And one of the biggest FOIA-driven stories of the Trump years, The Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers,” was a reminder that the law often works better as a window into the past than a mirror of the present.

But we can begin to glean at least the outlines of what happened when Donald Trump met the law that the late New York Times columnist William Safire said “has done more to inhibit the abuse of Government power… than any legislation in our lifetime.” The results of that clash are as revealing about the 45th president as they are about FOIA.

Trump came into office with the FOIA bar already low. The Obama administration, despite lofty campaign rhetoric about transparency and a first-day-in-office memo urging agencies to “adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure,” set records for FOIA non-compliance and was caught at one point—by a FOIA lawsuit, naturally—contradicting its public posture by lobbying against FOIA reform behind closed doors. Thus, as MuckRock co-founder Michael Morisy put it, comparing Obama and Trump’s transparency records is a case study in “setting high expectations and then failing to meet them in some really critical ways versus setting some really low expectations and delivering what folks expected.”

Trump as president lied prodigiously, withheld White House visitor logswent months between formal press briefingsmade employees sign non-disclosure agreementsattempted to stop the publication of books about his administration, and committed a long list of other offenses against openness.

And when it comes to FOIA, it’s hard to find any statistical category where the Trump administration cleared even the low bar set by Obama. […]

THREE OTHER ARTICLES WORTH READING

Despite the Pandemic, Republicans Are Fighting Paid Sick Leave All Over the Country, by Walker Bragman. Under the guise of helping businesses, the GOP is working to bar medical leave mandates in state by state across the country.

More Than Half of All Inmates in Wisconsin Prisons Have Tested Positive for Covid, by Arvind Dilawar. With a civil rights complaint filed in federal court, inmates accuse administrators of flouting CDC guidelines.

‘ I can’t keep doing this’: gig workers say pay has fallen after California’s Prop 22, by Michael SainatoDrivers say working conditions remain poor after voters approved measure exempting Uber and other apps from labor laws

TOP COMMENTS • RESCUED DIARIES

TWEET(S) OF THE DAY

If Ted Cruz were an ordinary dude, and he did a Mexico roundtrip in less than 17 hours, the DEA would be waiting on his lawn when he got home.

— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) February 18, 2021

QUOTATION

“The real problem of humanity is the following: We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.” ~~Edward O. Wilson

BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2010—Vice President Biden: ‘The test ban treaty is as important as ever.’

It’s turning out to be a rather eventful week for nuclear weapons news, on both the domestic front and the international stage. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to deal with what’s going on in the US in this post, and address international issues separately.

First of all, the Obama administration is in the home stretch regarding the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR); the President’s national security team met yesterday to discuss the options they will present to the president, so he can make his final decision regarding “U.S. nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture” for at least half of the next decade. It is a legislatively mandated review, and I’ve written about it in several previous posts. Since the meeting was behind closed doors, we don’t know many specifics, but national security expert and Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione has laid out what form he thinks the final NPR should take.

Secondly, today, the administration continued to prove its ability to multitask on nuclear weapons issues. Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech at the National Defense University in which he basically expanded on his Wall Street Journal op-ed piece from several weeks ago, in which he discussed the proposed budget for the nuclear weapons complex, and why it is important in the overall national security picture.

As Travis Sharp noted at the Nukes of Hazard, Biden’s speech today took the middle ground regarding criticism of the new nuclear budget.

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for “Netroots Radio.”

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