The top civil lawyer for Texas’s most populous county issued a records demand seeking information on the origins of Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) so-called “forensic audit” plans, including any communications between the secretary of state’s office and surrogates for former President Donald Trump.
“Governor Abbott and the Secretary of State are telling the public that this ‘audit’ has been going on for months, but this is the first time the County’s heard anything about it,” Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee wrote in a statement. “They’re on the news and issuing press releases about this ‘audit’, talking to everyone about it but us.”
“The administration has told us nothing about the purpose of or legal basis for this audit, what they’re requesting, or what the process will be,” Menefee added. “It’s my job to advise the County and the Elections Administrator on how to respond. I can’t do that without this basic information that neither the Governor nor the SOS has shared.”
In his two-page letter, Menefee addresses his records demand to the office of Texas’s Secretary of State, which is currently vacant. Menefee addressed the letter to the general mailbox for that office’s general counsel, requesting 14 categories of information.
Two of those categories relate to the governor’s office: One seeks “[a]ll communications between the SOS office and the Office of the Texas Governor or the Office of the Lieutenant Governor related to a complaint, allegation of fraud or misconduct, request for investigation or review, or question received by the SOS office regarding the November 2020 General Election in Harris County.”
The other demands “[a]ll communications between the SOS office and the Office of the Texas Governor or the Office of the Lieutenant Governor related to the ‘forensic audit’ of the November 2020 General Election in Harris County announced by the SOS on September 23, 2021 (as the SOS office’s announcement explicitly states the department ‘has already begun the process,’ this request also seeks communications dated prior to September 23, 2021).”
On Sept. 23, the Texas Secretary of State office issued the following unsigned statement:
Under existing Texas laws, the Secretary of State has the authority to conduct a full and comprehensive forensic audit of any election and has already begun the process in Texas’ two largest Democrat counties and two largest Republican counties—Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Collin—for the 2020 election. We anticipate the Legislature will provide funds for this purpose.
The statement offered no rationale to supposedly audit an election process the Secretary of State’s office previously called “smooth and secure.”
As reported by the Texas Tribune, the announcement came hours after Trump asked that an election audit bill be added to the Lone Star State’s special legislative session agenda.
The proliferation of pro-Trump partisan election investigations grew out of a similar effort in Arizona, which ended up expanding the margin of President Joe Biden’s victory in a hand count while baselessly casting doubt on those same results through various conspiracy theories. The Arizona gambit came with a $5.7 million price tag, footed by taxpayers and pro-Trump operatives like an entity run by Sidney Powell.
Harris County’s attorney wants to uncover what discussions may have occurred between the Secretary of State’s office and “any member of or surrogate for former President Donald Trump’s political campaign or post-presidential activities, Jenna Ellis, the Election Integrity Alliance, the American Greatness Fund, the America First Policy Institute, or America First Legal dated between November 4, 2020 and the present.”
Read the letter below:
(Abbott image via YouTube screengrab; Menefee image via Zoom interview)
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