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NSArchive and CREW Ask DOJ to Investigate Trump’s Missing Call Logs, BuzzFeed News Dismantles Stellar Investigative Team, and More: FRINFORMSUM 4/28/2022

April 28, 2022

NSArchive and CREW Ask DOJ to Investigate Missing Trump Call Logs

The National Security Archive teamed up with the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) to ask the Justice Department to investigate President Trump’s missing seven and a half hour call logs from the January 6 insurrection. Our letter to the DOJ requests that it investigate whether “former President Donald Trump violated federal criminal law by destroying critical records from January 6, 2021 before leaving office.”

The Washington Post reported on March 29, 2022, that seven and a half hours of call logs were missing from the records turned over to the House select committee investigating the attack. The records were provided by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) after the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s request to block the handover. NARA provided the committee a total of 11 pages, consisting of five pages of the president’s official daily diary, and six pages of the White House switchboard call logs (titled “Presidential Call Logs”)  – with a glaring gap of calls placed or received between 11:17 a.m. to 6:54 p.m. The gap contradicts extensive reporting about calls placed during that period, including a known phone call between President Trump and Vice President Pence.

Trump denied using disposable, or burner phones, to make calls during that time, saying he had no idea what burner phones were. In an interesting aside worthy of further investigation, former national security adviser John Bolton said that he and Trump have spoken about how people have used burner phones to avoid having their calls scrutinized.”

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BuzzFeed News Dismantles Investigative Team, a Blow to Investigative Journalism and Stellar FOIA Reporting

Investigative reporter and FOIA legend Jason Leopold recently announced on Twitter that BuzzFeed News is dismantling its investigative team, of which Leopold is a part. The team has produced numerous high-profile and impactful investigations, largely through extensive public records requests. The following is a selection of stories that I have found particularly riveting:

Leopold has clarified on Twitter that this dismantling does not impact his interest in his ongoing FOIA requests, he is “still interested” in them being processed.

DoD Agrees to Give Stars and Stripes Reporter Docs, Maybe Just This Once

The Defense Department has reversed course and stated in a recent court filing that it would process 15 FOIA requests from a Stars and Stripes reporter. In January of this year Stars and Stripes reporter Chad Garland sued the Defense Department for its refusal to process his FOIA requests and subsequent appeals because he works for the military publication. (Stars and Stripes is administered under the Pentagon’s Defense Media Activity; it is editorially independent but receives a DoD subsidy to offset the costs of providing a paper to troops stationed overseas.) The Pentagon stated in a March 4, 2021, memo that “any representative of (Stars and Stripes) cannot use the FOIA to gain access to DoD information,” continuing that, “If you receive a request from a (Stars and Stripes) employee that does not demonstrate (the publication’s) approval, you should close it as ‘not a proper FOIA request.’” 

Kel McClanahan, executive director of the nonprofit law firm National Security Counselors, cautioned that the DoD’s latest move may not mean the DoD is changing its policy towards Stars and Stripes reporters. McClanahan noted that the timing suggested the move could be a result of a FOIA release to a lawyer who was not a party to Garland’s suit, but who had submitted an identical FOIA request.

New Book Alert – Republics of Myth: National Narratives and the US–Iran Conflict

As multilateral nuclear negotiations with Iran drag on, it is anyone’s guess whether they will succeed and if so whether they can survive the fierce domestic battles that are expected in the United States and the Islamic Republic.  Why is it that Washington and Tehran still seem unable to bridge the rift that has divided them for more than four decades?

A new volume out this month tackles this question from a novel perspective – arguing that along with the realities of conflicting interests and concrete grievances, a major contributing factor has been how each nation views itself and its adversary. Briefly put, the book suggests that this often-deadly confrontation derives from the very different national narratives that have shaped and continue to sway politics and policies in each country.

Written by Hussein Banai (Hamilton Lugar School, Indiana University), Malcolm Byrne (National Security Archive), and John Tirman (Center for International Studies, MIT), the new book, Republics of Myth: National Narratives and the US–Iran Conflict is being published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. 

Ayotzinapa Investigations Special Exhibit Page Launch

On the 26th of every month for the last seven and a half years, the parents of the missing 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College in southwestern Mexico have traveled from their home states to Mexico City to demonstrate and demand information about the disappearance of their sons – victims of a notorious 2014 case of police-abetted kidnapping and high-level government cover-up.  The case has become emblematic of the violence produced from the U.S.-Mexican “war on drugs” and the crisis of forced disappearances and lack of official accountability in Mexico. 

To commemorate this month’s 26th, the National Security Archive launched its Ayotzinapa Investigations special exhibits page, which contains all related postings about the event (the most recent was published on April 1), links to the English and Spanish-language podcast series “After/Después de Ayotzinapa,” and related books, reports, projects, videos, and photographs.

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