House Democratic Leaders, Ranking Members Urge Attorney General Sessions & White House Counsel to Reverse Unprecedented Policy to Not Respond to Democratic Requests
Washington, D.C. – Today, House Democratic Leaders and Ranking Members sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Counsel Don McGahn urging them reverse their policy that instructs federal agencies in the Trump Administration to ignore oversight requests from Members of Congress.
The Members wrote, “This policy represents an unprecedented assault on the basic constitutional design of our republic: by denying access to basic oversight information to duly elected Representatives of Congress, the Trump Administration is attacking head-on the principles that underlie Article I of our Constitution. … We are deeply concerned with the President’s decision to abandon his pretenses at transparency and to wage a campaign of increasing secrecy if not outright dishonesty. This issue is bigger than politics; it is about the integrity of our democracy and the oath that representatives of our government took to support and protect the Constitution of the United States.”
Full text of the letter can be found below:
June 20, 2017
The Honorable Jefferson Sessions
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest
Washington, D.C. 20530
The Honorable Donald McGahn
Office of White House Counsel
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Attorney General Sessions and Mr. McGahn:
We are writing to express our gravest concerns regarding the Trump Administration’s determination that federal agencies should ignore oversight requests made by Democratic Members of Congress.
On May 1, 2017, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a Letter Opinion that ruled that “the Executive Branch’s longstanding policy” is only to accommodate requests for information issued by Committee Chairs, and that there was no need to “accommodate [such] congressional needs” by the Minority or rank-and-file Members of either Party. On June 2, Politico disclosed the existence of the opinion and reported that the “White House is telling federal agencies to blow off Democratic lawmakers’ oversight requests,” and that Uttam Dhillon, a top White House lawyer “told agencies not to cooperate with such requests from Democrats.”
A formal policy of ignoring requests by the Minority and any Member of Congress who isn’t a Chairman is without precedent or rational justification. We say this as Members who have served in this body for many years, in positions of Leadership and as both Chairs and Ranking Members of Committees. This policy represents an unprecedented assault on the basic constitutional design of our republic: by denying access to basic oversight information to duly elected Representatives of Congress, the Trump Administration is attacking head-on the principles that underlie Article I of our Constitution.
Until this year, Administrations of both parties have worked in good faith to respond to requests for information from Minority and other Members, even on controversial or politically sensitive issues. For example, in 2011, the Obama Administration responded to Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Grassley’s letter inquiring about so-called “Operation Fast and Furious,” and in 2003, the Bush Administration responded to House Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Waxman’s letter concerning contracts awarded for the reconstruction of Iraq. These inquiries led to major revelations about U.S. national security missteps; by cooperating with Congress, those Administrations enabled policy reformulations that made our country stronger and safer.
We are deeply concerned with the President’s decision to abandon his pretenses at transparency and to wage a campaign of increasing secrecy if not outright dishonesty. This issue is bigger than politics; it is about the integrity of our democracy and the oath that representatives of our government took to support and protect the Constitution of the United States.
For the foregoing reasons, we ask that you immediately withdraw this blanket ban on oversight requests and revert to longstanding policy of responding to Members of Congress.
Thank you for your review of this urgent matter.
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI
REPRESENTATIVE STENY H. HOYER
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES E. CLYBURN
Assistant Democratic Leader
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPH CROWLEY
Democratic Caucus Chairman
REPRESENTATIVE LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ
Vice Chair Democratic Caucus
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN CONYERS, JR.
Ranking Member, JUDICIARY
REPRESENTATIVE PETER A. DEFAZIO
Ranking Member, TRANSPORTATION& INFRASTRUCTURE
REPRESENTATIVE LOUISE M. SLAUGHTER
Ranking Member, RULES
REPRESENTATIVE FRANK J. PALLONE, JR.
Ranking Member, ENERGY & COMMERCE
REPRESENTATIVE NITA M. LOWEY
Ranking Member, APPROPRIATIONS
REPRESENTATIVE COLLIN C. PETERSON
Ranking Member, AGRICULTURE
REPRESENTATIVE EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON
Ranking Member, SCIENCE, SPACE & TECHNOLOGY
REPRESENTATIVE BOBBY C. SCOTT
Ranking Member, EDUCATION & THE WORKFORCE
REPRESENTATIVE BENNIE G. THOMPSON
Ranking Member, HOMELAND SECURITY
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SMITH
Ranking Member, ARMED SERVICES
REPRESENTATIVE ELIOT L. ENGEL
Ranking Member, FOREIGN AFFAIRS
REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD E. NEAL
Ranking Member, WAYS & MEANS
REPRESENTATIVE MAXINE WATERS
Ranking Member, FINANCIAL SERVICES
REPRESENTATIVE CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Ranking Member, JOINT ECONOMIC COMMITTEE
REPRESENTATIVE NYDIA M. VELAZQUEZ
Ranking Member, SMALL BUSINESS
REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS
Ranking Member, OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM
REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT A. BRADY
Ranking Member, ADMINISTRATION
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM B. SCHIFF
Ranking Member, SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE
REPRESENTATIVE TIM J. WALZ
Ranking Member, VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
REPRESENTATIVE RAÚL M. GRIJALVA
Ranking Member, NATURAL RESOURCES
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN A. YARMUTH
Ranking Member, BUDGET