August 2, 2018
CREW sent a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) to the Department of Commerce today seeking communications between former White House advisor to the Commerce department Eric Branstad and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States, from January 20, 2017 to March 1, 2018, as well as all communication sent or received by Branstad that mention the defense firm Circinus.
On at least one occasion, Gates reached out to Branstad on behalf of the defense firm Circinus, that was owned by Elliott Broidy, who was also a top fundraiser for President Trump. The New York Times reported last week that Gates considered Branstad a “contact” of his within the Department of Commerce who might be helpful in securing an endorsement from the Commerce Department of Circinus defense work with the Romanian government. Circinus eventually secured the endorsement. Gates worked with Branstad on President Trump’s inaugural committee, and may have also contacted Branstad on behalf of other special interest clients.
The requested records would shed light on how lobbyists with ties to President Trump seek influence for their clients through contacts within federal agencies, and how individuals within agencies respond to these requests. Given that Gates is involved in criminal litigation involving illegal foreign lobbying, it is in the public’s interest to understand how he advanced other lobbying interests within the Trump administration.