Conservative Group Sues Biden Administration over Alleged Deletion of CDC Emails

America First Legal (AFL) a conservative legal nonprofit filed a lawsuit against the Biden Administration on Wednesday, accusing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of destroying federal records. The lawsuit alleges that several emails from former employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were deleted in violation of the Federal Records Act.

The controversy began when AFL requested an investigation from the HHS’s Inspector General into the CDC’s alleged policy of deleting employee emails. AFL’s inquiry was prompted by concerns over the CDC’s alleged promotion of controversial educational content.

Following AFL’s request it was discovered that the CDC routinely erases the emails of nearly all its former employees 30 days after their departure. NARA concluded its investigation by stating that the CDC allows individual employees to determine the retention of emails based on their relevance and alignment with NARA-approved records schedules.

AFL Vice President Dan Epstein argued “The CDC destroyed records it determined were unimportant. But as this lawsuit shows the CDC like any other person who destroys government records may not evade the law. The Archives and the Department of Justice have a statutory responsibility to apply the law fairly to all persons.”

The lawsuit highlights the need for millions of federal employees to be held accountable to an objective standard to protect the public. AFL contends that NARA’s claim that it has the discretion to permit individual CDC employees to decide if their emails should be retained is typical of the problems that exist in the unelected administrative state that operates the vast majority of the federal government.

This case also reflects ongoing tensions between conservative groups and the current administration illustrating a deep mistrust in the impartiality of federal agencies. By highlighting discrepancies in how rules are applied — from a former FBI agent’s personal retention of documents to the prosecution of former President Trump — AFL is emphasizing what it sees as a fundamental breakdown in the principle that all are equal before the law.