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Michael CaputoMark Wilson | Getty Images

Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official who took over as top spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year, will take a 60-day leave of absence, HHS announced Wednesday.

The move comes after Caputo, who led the agency's communications on the coronavirus pandemic, reportedly said in a now-deleted video posted Sunday on his personal Facebook page that scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were engaged in "sedition" against President Donald Trump.

Read the full statement from HHS below:

"Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is announcing that HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo has decided to take a leave of absence to focus on his health and the well-being of his family. Mr. Caputo will be on leave for the next 60 days.

Dr. Paul Alexander, Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, was hired to engage with the department on a temporary basis. Dr. Alexander will be leaving the department.

Ryan Murphy, as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, will lead the day-to-day operations of the office during this time. Mr. Murphy has previously served as Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs."

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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As Group Demands Restoration of Voter Registrations, Ga Secretary of State Again Calls for Release of Data by ACLU Without Closed-Door Meetings

The Georgia Secretary of State and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia can’t seem to get on the same page to resolve a dispute over voter registration, voter roll maintenance, and a report evaluating both. After a virtual call and press conference demanding that the Georgia Secretary of State restore the voter registration of almost 200,000 people removed from the voter roll list in 2019, Black Voters Matter Fund co-founders maintain that Secretary Raffensperger’s actions were wrong, citing findings in a report by the Palast Investigative Fund and recently released by the ACLU of Georgia. The Palast Investigative Fund had made available two of its address verification experts and the Fund attorney to answer media questions regarding the methods used to determine that 198,351 voters the state said moved from their residence, a statement PIF refutes. “According to the US Postal Service licensee and the nation’s top address verification experts, the voters did not move,” a press release said Tuesday. An attorney for the group also released her National Voter Registration Act notice to the Sec of State demanding experts meet with the state’s Postal Service licensee immediately and go over the purge lists to find out how the state made the decisions it did. “To get to the facts, we are demanding that today, the Secretary of State tell us the name of his mysterious, secret Postal Service licensee and contact information.  The State must, by federal law, retain and name their Postal Service licensee,” the press release said. The request for the name of the state’s postal licensee and request they review evidence is in the form of an ‘NVRA demand’ – the first step toward litigation.  (click HERE to view letter) Latosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, states, “This report shows that 200,000 people were illegally removed from the voter rolls, and the Sec. of State must restore their rights immediately.  It was not the fault of these voters.  They should not be punished for the State’s mistake.  Raffensperger’s office was responsible for managing this process. People must be allowed to exercise this fundamental right.”

The Secretary of State’s Office, however, is holding steady and once again called on the ACLU on Tuesday to “manage its vendor and release the Palast data.”

From the press release Tuesday:

Despite assurances it would do so, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has yet to turn over data to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office that it used to claim that, in 2019, the state wrongly canceled the registrations of “198,351 Georgia voters who supposedly moved from their registration addresses who, in fact, have not moved at all.” The ACLU hired the Palast Investigative Fund to assert that “63 percent error rate” among the 313,243 voter registrations that were canceled overall because the voter no longer lived at the listed address.

“That we have to repeat our call for transparency from Greg Palast and the ACLU should be a sign to everyone listening of the weakness of their claims,” said Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state. “If these claims were anywhere near true, there would have been an uprising when our office took the unprecedented step of releasing the names of people who were subject to removal last year, but there wasn’t. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is committed to protecting the rights of every eligible Georgia voter, so we’re simply asking that the ACLU, or whatever group Palast uses next to megaphone his election misinformation, to turn over its evidence for our office to investigate or retract the report. At this point, Georgians have heard repeated reports of leprechauns and unicorns, but no one can show them photos. There’s a reason for that.”

The Palast study says it used a vendor licensed by the U.S. Postal Service to check voters’ registered addresses against the Postal Services records to arrive at these numbers.

“The Secretary of State’s Office uses a licensed, respected vendor for the same purpose,” Fuchs reiterated. “There are numerous safeguards in place to ensure that no one is wrongly removed. Anyone who bothered to check those 198,000 addresses would give up because they’d find the people they’re searching for no longer live there.”

Voters are contacted numerous times at their address of record before their registrations are canceled. People who move within their county and those who change their address on their driver’s licenses are automatically updated in our system. To stay active, all they have to do is return the postcard, contact an elections official or go vote. No one who has voted since 2015 was removed from the list in 2019, and anyone can check their registration at the Georgia My Voter page to check their status or re-register.

“Groups on the left have continuously spread disinformation about Georgia’s election procedures in order to motivate their bases and solicit money off the outrage they spur,” Fuchs said. “But they also undermine faith in our democratic process and divide Georgians, and to that under false pretenses is shameful. I expected better from the ACLU.”

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