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‘PRIVILEGE’: What the White House Doesn’t Think You Should Know About Biden’s Order on Mobilizing Voters

Posted on Friday, May 24, 2024
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FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—After President Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to work with private organizations to mobilize voters, senior White House officials asked agencies for “bold ideas” and explained plans to coordinate with “stakeholders.” 

One message from the White House, obtained by The Daily Signal, said: “We look forward to working with you to”—but the rest of the content is blacked out by a redaction. 

The specifics of those “bold ideas” and “stakeholders” isn’t knowable right now because “upon the advice of the White House Counsel’s Office, the information is being withheld under the presidential communications privilege,” according to a cover letter to The Daily Signal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture

The letter accompanied 99 pages that The Daily Signal obtained from USDA through a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Since Biden signed his executive order on elections in March 2021, members of Congress, the press, and watchdog groups have struggled to get basic information on how the administration is implementing the order. Some details have trickled out through FOIA law, which requires that basic information from the government be available to the public. 

Earlier this month, two House committees intensified their investigations of Biden’s order on turning out voters. 

Although records obtained previously by The Daily Signal under FOIA requests contained redactions and cited exemptions, the responses didn’t refer to “presidential communication privilege.”

“The presidential communications privilege protects communications among the president and his advisors,” the cover letter to the released but redacted documents says. 

“The records being withheld here consist of email communications concerning President Biden’s Executive Order 14019 and attached records that were solicited and received by the president or his immediate White House advisers who have broad and significant responsibility for investigating and formulating the advice to be given to the president,” says the letter signed by Alexis R. Graves, director of the USDA’s Office of Information Affairs. 

Other exemptions to disclosure cited in Graves’ cover letter include the deliberative process privilege and attorney-client privilege.

Critics of Biden’s executive order, some of whom refer to it as “Bidenbucks,” argue that its implementation could cause bureaucrats to violate the Hatch Act, a law that prohibits political activity using resources of the federal government. Critics also say the order may violate the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits agencies from spending taxpayers’ money for reasons not approved by Congress. 

Separately, the Justice Department has invoked presidential privilege to shield documents about Biden’s order in a public records lawsuit brought by the Foundation for Government Accountability, a watchdog group.

“In recent years, the presidential communications privilege has become an increasingly common excuse used by federal agencies to sidestep their disclosure obligations under federal law,” Stewart Whitson, senior director of federal affairs at the Foundation for Government Accountability, told The Daily Signal. 

“During the current administration, federal agencies have shown an increasing willingness to stretch the presidential communications privilege well beyond what is allowed under current law—documents or other materials that reflect presidential decision making and deliberations that the president believes should remain confidential—to any and all documents received by White House advisers and their staff,” Whitson said.

“If allowed to persist, federal agencies and the politically appointed bureaucrats leading these agencies will gradually render the FOIA law meaningless. Government transparency and our very democracy are under threat,” he said.

Stephonn O. Alcorn, then the associate director of racial justice and equity at the White House, sent an April 1, 2021, email to all federal agencies that is heavily redacted in the released version. 

Alcorn’s email was about an interagency meeting to be convened eight days later, on April 9, by the White House Counsel’s Office and the Domestic Policy Counsel. The agenda is completely redacted.  

Alcorn notified agencies that taking the White House lead on Biden’s election executive order would be Justin Vail, special assistant to the president for democracy and civic participation with the Domestic Policy Council, and Larry Schwartztol, an associate White House counsel.

In September 2021, Kumar Chandran, senior adviser for nutrition to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, notified Vail of a change of plans for how the USDA wanted to implement Biden’s order. In the released record, however, the change is blacked out from public view. 

“After input from Sec. Vilsack this week, we are considering a change to one of our proposed actions, which would result in [redacted],” Chandran wrote. 

“We need to do some further diligence to determine if it is viable, but if it is, we think it might be more meaningful,” he added.

A White House press release that month gave a broad overview of how the USDA would implement Biden’s order on mobilizing voters. 

“The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service will encourage the provision of nonpartisan voter information through its borrowers and guaranteed lenders, who interface with thousands of residents in the process of changing their voting address every year,” the White House press release said. “In addition, Rural Development agencies—which are spread throughout field offices across the country where rural Americans can apply for housing, facilities, or business assistance—will take steps to promote access to voter registration forms and other pertinent nonpartisan election information among their patrons.”

Getting to the point of how the USDA would push Americans to vote appears to be a tedious process, based on what’s discernible from the released records. 

Some messages were more heavily redacted than others. For example, a September 2021 message from USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development Farah Ahmad says only “This is” before the text is blacked out. 

A June 2021 email from Vail to Chandran was about the “interim report template.” 

“At this point,” Vail’s message began, followed by several lines of redacted information. He continued: “We just want to ensure that all agencies are taking steps to generate bold ideas and begin to flesh out those ideas; it will also allow the opportunity for us to provide feedback.”

This statement is followed by more heavy redactions. 

White House official Devontae Freeland, special assistant to the racial justice and equity team, notified agencies on July 2, 2021, about an upcoming conference with “stakeholders” on Biden’s executive order. 

Separate document releases show that a Zoom conference the following July 12 involved Biden administration officials and numerous far-left political organizations, among them unions. The groups included the Southern Poverty Law Center, Demos, the American Civil Liberties Union, the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations, the Stacey Abrams-founded Fair Fight Action, and the Al Sharpton-founded National Action Network. 

“As you know, we’re coordinating some input from stakeholders, including what we hope you found to be an informative session yesterday afternoon with state and local election officials,” Freeland wrote. 

“We’ve also planned a session for nonpartisan nonprofit organizations engaged in voting rights advocacy to provide their recommendations and thoughts on best practices; we will follow up shortly with an additional session from nonprofit organizations with substantial expertise in reaching out to and engaging particular populations of voters who may be more difficult to reach. We hope that each of these sessions will provide helpful feedback,” he wrote, before more redactions blacked out the text. 

In another heavily redacted message, Vail wrote USDA officials in late September 2021 with the subject line “Voting EO/Follow up items.”

On Oct. 6, 2021, Vail wrote to agencies about meeting on Biden’s executive order in coming days. 

“We look forward to working with you to [redacted],” he wrote. 

The next interagency meeting would be Oct. 20, Vail wrote. 

Spokespersons for the White House and the Agriculture Department didn’t respond to The Daily Signal’s inquiries about this report before publication.

Fred Lucas is chief news correspondent and manager of the Investigative Reporting Project for The Daily Signal.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Signal by Fred Lucas

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AMAC or AMAC Action.

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Bob L.
Bob L.
22 days ago

Anything that doesn’t come through Congress and yet carries the same force and penalties as a law is null.
People just have to realize that and stand against tyranny.

Brenda G
Brenda G
22 days ago

RedactionsPresidential ordersVotersGovernment I wonder why no one seems concerned about this?The leftists love to change what they don’t like. Change to fit their goal, of course, then it will get changed once they need that to happen. I feel almost guilty, second guess myself- as a result of their subterfuge.

Pat R
Pat R
22 days ago

This post is the WH Administration version of RBC’s article regarding governments (local, state and/or federal) that are totally controlled by one party.
My QUESTION is why are the other two branches not taking measures to stop the use of EOs to totally control/run the federal gov’t as though the other two branches don’t exist at all? The federal gov’t was NOT set up to operate this way; it must be reined in and stopped. Congress is to make laws, not the WH. Congress is neglible in this regard.
We The People need a total remake of representatives in the House & Senate who are Constitutional patriots and get us back to a functioning Republic. It can only happen if We get active, speak out and organize to make happen what must take place for that remake.

Alex mcgee
Alex mcgee
14 days ago

I think that yes they would love to find a way to get them to be allowed to vote! But it’s demographics as well! Flood the red states with illegals and get them counted on the census and it will change the states mapped precincts to enable them to change to blue. Assuring that the democrats will always win the house of representatives! Make no mistake they have been working and planning these things for a long time! And they are out of control. They will be the future insurrectionists!

David Millikan
David Millikan
21 days ago

As I said from day one that Dictator Beijing biden and the Fascist democrats can’t win Fair and Legal. That’s why they commit fraud and election interference not to mention violate the law and U.S. Constitution.
Why else would they have their Illegal Alien Terrorist voting Illegally. Which NONE of their votes will count since they are NOT here Legally or Legal citizens of the United States.

JML
JML
21 days ago

Bunch of friggin’ crooks, and what they are trying to steal is America!

Dr. Septimus Pretorius
Dr. Septimus Pretorius
21 days ago

Look to the southern boarder and you’ll know the full extent of the Voter Mobilization the white house is pushing.

Ann
Ann
16 days ago

This from the most transparent presidency ever. What people don’t realize is that there are many ways to steal an election yet Trump is seen as a threat to our republic.

invictus
invictus
18 days ago

KKKJoe Biden is nothing more than chopped brain on toast. Explaining honesty and integrity to the simp is like trying to explain poetry to a fish.

Michael Schaffer
Michael Schaffer
19 days ago

If Trump wins, there will be trouble. The left will create protests and riots similar to what they did 4 years ago. Cities will burn, and people will die, and we will be told it’s all unhappy citizens. In truth, the rioters will be paid to commit violence, and we will be subjected to political theater once again. If Biden wins, we will be sure it’s due to election corruption and the trouble that results from that will be real.

Michael Schaffer
Michael Schaffer
19 days ago

I am not able to share this article with my friends. In the recent past that was easily accomplished but now the share button is unresponsive. I thought AMAC wanted non AMAC members to be informed also.

Mark
Mark
21 days ago

Yep, here we go…. Calling all illegal migrants, your day of reckoning hearkens; uncle Joe calls you for duty. Unc Joe should not have any presidential privaleges. He should be at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, prostrate face down pleading for Total forgiveness, first for demanded personal life long sin, that includes Treason for putting America on the auction block. AMAC family Please correct any wording or phrases that make no sense. Please eternal God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and those who have been at the foot of the Cross in surrender, Save this country for Your Glory , Honor and Praise.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
22 days ago

Make it easy on yourselves: just collect all the government and union workers ballots and fill them out for them?

Tim Toroian
Tim Toroian
22 days ago

This is more slime from the bottom of the swamp. I often suggest that many people drink the swamp water. I remind them that swamps are where alligators pee. There are no alligators in the kool that the left seems to think others drink.

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