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House Democratic Leaders, Ranking Members Urge Attorney General Sessions & White House Counsel to Reverse Unprecedented Policy to Not Respond to Democratic Requests

Jun 20, 2017
Press Release

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.  

best regards,

 

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI

Democratic Leader

 

REPRESENTATIVE STENY H. HOYER

Democratic Whip

 

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

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