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Covid-19 Delays State Department’s Documents in Media FOIA Suit

April 8, 2020, 12:46 PM

The Covid-19 outbreak requires the U.S. State Department to delay production of documents in a lawsuit seeking information about communications with Fox News and other media outlets, parties told a Washington federal court.

Plaintiff Democracy Forward Foundation has agreed to a 60-day stay in production of documents in the Freedom of Information Act suit, and the department will provide an update on document production in 30 days, they told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a Tuesday joint status report.

Potentially responsive documents are stored in a system that is inaccessible to department employees that are teleworking or otherwise not physically present at a department work site, a department official said.

The department is committed to complying with court orders and FOIA demands, but the pandemic “severely compromised” the ability to do so, the official said.

The department had been making interim productions every six weeks at a rate of 450 pages per six weeks, the report said.

Democracy Forward filed its suit in February 2019 following a report by The Daily Beast that said that a “Fox & Friends” news anchor read a script bolstering the Trump Administration’s policy agenda.

The suit seeks information about possible violations of a federal law that prohibits appropriations from being used for propaganda.

Nitin Shah represented Democracy Forward Foundation.

For additional legal resources, visit Bloomberg Law In Focus: Coronavirus (Bloomberg Law Subscription).

The case is Democracy Forward Found. v. U.S. Dep’t of State, D.D.C., No. 19-459, joint status report 4/7/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Seiden in Washington at dseiden@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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