The apparent memory problems of a former Trump Justice Department appointee have continued to haunt the department since the official left the administration.
Last week, in two separate cases, the Justice Department had to tell courts that the former official, John Gore, had issues remembering key communications related to the disputes in front of the judges.
One of those cases is the lawsuit that was brought against the census citizenship question, where the ACLU is seeking sanctions against the administration for allegedly withholding evidence in the case. The Justice Department in a Friday filing said that Gore had “no recollection” of texts sent to him that were related to the failed push to add the question to the census.
And in a separate case, arising from the now-disbanded Trump voter fraud commission, the Justice Department had to “correct” a declaration previously filed by Gore. According to the DOJ’s new filing, Gore now no longer remembers when he first came into contact with a GOP operative who was seeking that the commission investigate alleged voter fraud in Chicago. Gore also didn’t remember an email thread with another DOJ official and the White House referencing the operative.
Two Senate Judiciary Democrats have seized on the developments in both cases to renew their push for the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility to review Gore’s conduct. In a new letter Monday, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said the census citizenship case development “casts further doubt on Mr. Gore’s credibility.” They also argued that the corrected declaration in the voter fraud commission case was “relevant” to OPR’s review.
The new letter comes after Whitehouse and Leahy requested back in October that OPR investigate Gore’s conduct. In their original complaint, they questioned Gore’s “truthfulness” and suggested that his conduct in the two cases “falls below the standards for candor and integrity expected of a senior official at the Department of Justice.”
Gore, who left the Department in August, did not respond to TPM’s inquiry about the filings, nor did a Department of Justice spokesperson.
In the census case, Gore has been accused by the ACLU of not just withholding evidence in the underlying legal challenge to the citizenship question, but of misleading the court in the subsequent sanctions litigation.
Specifically the ACLU pointed to a text, recently made public by the House Oversight Committee, sent to Gore’s personal cell phone by Mark Neuman, a former Census official who served as an outside advisor to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on census case. The text was a draft of the request for the census citizenship question, and the administration has been accused of obscuring the role that Neuman and a now-deceased GOP gerrymandering expert played in getting the question added.
In its latest response Friday, the Justice Department said that Gore had “no recollection” of receiving the text from Neuman, and that his previous claims in the case of not using his personal phone for official business were “accurate to the best of his recollection at the time.”
The Trump voter fraud commission case is a 2017 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records of communications between the commission and the Trump administration. The Justice Department told the court last week that it wanted to “correct” a declaration that Gore filed in the case in May, when there was a dispute over whether Gore’s emails from his personal email account were subject to disclosure under FOIA.
The dispute was prompted by emails sent to Gore in the summer of 2017 from Chicago Republican Party Chairman Chris Cleveland, who emailed Gore seeking to be put in touch with voter fraud commission about voter fraud allegations against the Chicago Board of Elections.
Gore forwarded Cleveland’s emails to a GOP member of the voter fraud commission, and, back in May, the Department argued in court that the Gore’s correspondence with Cleveland did not amount to official Department work. To back that assertion, the DOJ pointed to a declaration filed by Gore in which Gore claimed to know Cleveland “outside” of his work for the Department.
Last week, the Department had to correct two things about that declaration. Firstly, it clarified that Gore “had no recollection” of a March 2017 email exchange in which Gore’s DOJ superior at the time, Thomas Wheeler, also reached out to Gore about Cleveland’s claims.
According to the email thread, which was released in separate FOIA litigation, Gore spoke to Cleveland on the phone after Wheeler asked him to look into the allegations, and eventually was in touch with the White House about Cleveland’s concerns.
The Department said last week that, after reviewing that thread, “Gore is now uncertain as to when and how he first came into contact with Mr. Cleveland; Mr. Gore therefore can no longer affirm that he first came into contact with Mr. Cleveland outside of his work for” the Justice Department.
Last week’s filing also corrected Gore’s May 2019 assertion that he did not use his personal email account to conduct official Department work.
“Mr. Gore is now aware, based on searches [The Department] recently performed on his personal e-mail account in another FOIA case, of e-mails in that account that may be deemed agency records under FOIA,” the filing said, adding that none of those emails fell under the FOIA litigation in this particular case.
“Mr. Gore asks that we convey that he deeply regrets any inconveniences that may have been caused by the above-described issues concerning his May 2019 declaration,” the filing said.
Read the Senate Democrats’ letter, the census case filing and the FOIA litigation filing below: