CONCORD, NH — A public records request for communications between state health officials and the Donald Trump for President re-election campaign concerning a Portsmouth rally that was booked but later canceled led to no records released, according to state Democrats.
Ray Buckley, the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, made the request July 21 after hearing Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state’s epidemiologist, speak during a press conference and say he had not been in contact with the campaign about the rally — even though he had worked on other public health guidance for events like the Foxwoods 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway as well as Laconia Bike Week. The party’s RSA 91-A request included any emails, text messages, and documents between Commissioner Lori Shibinette and any agency staffers related to “any public health considerations or conversations” about the rally which was originally booked for July 11 but canceled due to the trajectory of Tropical Storm Fay. Buckley said the request was being made because there was concern the Trump campaign was making its own rules — at the expense of the health and safety of attendees from New Hampshire and potential other states, and wondered why the rally would even be allowed.
John Martin, the deputy chief legal counsel for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Legal and Regulatory Services, told Buckley Thursday there was nothing to give him.
“I am writing at this time to confirm that DHHS has no records that are responsive to your request,” he wrote in an email.
Martin said the Governor’s Economic Re-Opening Task Force was “developing guidance on re-opening in a variety of settings,” and offered a link to the latest information.
Neither Gov. Chris Sununu’s press office nor Jake Leon, a public information officer with the health department, responded to emails from Patch as to why no one from the health department was in contact with the campaign about the rally while actively working with other large events on safety guidelines. A request to speak with Shibinette about this issue was also ignored.
Michael Beyer, a spokesman for the party, said the lack of interaction between state health officials and the campaign showed “Sununu sidelined public health officials to appease Trump and put the health and safety of Granite Staters at risk.” He added, “Instead of putting public health first in the middle of a pandemic, it’s clear that ‘Trump guy through and through,’ Chris Sununu put his allegiance to Trump ahead of New Hampshire.”
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