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The Federal Government Makes Its Final Campaign Push For The President

This Week in the Swamp: A weekly dive into the muck of the Trump administration.
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October 29, 2020 6:27 p.m.

With just five days left until Election Day, political appointees in the federal government are pulling out all of the stops on behalf of one side of the presidential contest. 

It’s not supposed to work this way — just like sitting presidents don’t usually hold partisan nominating conventions at the White House — but that’s how it’s working now. 

Case in point: The Department of Homeland Security, where Acting-But-Maybe-Not Secretary Chad Wolf on Thursday released what was essentially a campaign ad for the President, one that deceptively edited an anti-border wall activist. 

Mark Morgan, currently in charge of Customs and Border Protection, made things even more explicit: 

But it’s not just tweets: Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which is housed within DHS, has purchased anti-sanctuary city billboards in swing-state Pennsylvania that are meant to drive home the message that the (Democratic) politicians supporting the policy — one of legal non-cooperation with federal law enforcement — are endangering citizens’ lives. 

Given the numerous press events ICE has held in recent days, the watchdog group American Oversight on Thursday asked the Office of Special Counsel to investigate whether top DHS officials were illegally using their offices to further Trump’s reelection campaign. 

“The timing and location of numerous recent DHS events and publicity efforts in recent weeks — located in competitive battlegrounds shortly before the fast-approaching election — strongly suggests that DHS leadership may be directing the Department to take action wight the intent to affect the outcome of the election,” the group’s executive director wrote.

In a memo earlier this month, the Center for American Progress warned that ramped up enforcement actions and sped-up deportations could themselves affect election integrity by potentially intimidating voters of color, even though ICE has reliably pledged to stay away from polling places.

Just Wednesday, Acting ICE Director Tony Pham flew to Minneapolis for a big press event to announce 100 arrests nationwide, though just 31 were in Minnesota. Pham said the announcement was meant to “lift up and bolster” the ICE workforce, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported

“Tony Pham and even Chad Wolf have been doing press conference after press conference, crisscrossing the country to talk about immigration raids that typically would be announced only through a press release, if at all,” said Tom Jawetz, CAP’s vice president of immigration policy, and previously chief counsel on the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. 

Immigration lawyer Robyn Meyer-Thompson was straightforward with the Star-Tribune. 

“This is part of a series of press conferences held in battleground states the week before the election,” she said. “I think the timing is suspect.”

It’s not just DHS: The Secretary of the Interior released a video Tuesday singing the Trump administration’s praises and clipping a glowing quote from the big man himself. 

“I ran the @interior digital team during President Obama’s re-election in 2012. I would have been fired for doing this,” Obama administration official Tim Fullerton said of the video.

“This is a propaganda video created with your tax dollars meant to bolster the President’s chances of being re-elected. This is way outside the lines.”

Here’s what else we’ve been watching this week: 

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