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By Chris White
Democratic lawmakers called President Donald Trump’s decision to temporarily halt the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to put out communications a violation of federal laws.
Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Frank Pallone of New Jersey sent a letter to White House Council Donald McGahn, suggesting the administration’s move to stifle the agency’s press communication violates laws protecting whistleblowers.
“It has been widely reported that the Trump administration has issued restrictions at multiple agencies on employee communications including, in some cases, communications with Congress,” the letter reads. “These directives appear to violate a host of federal laws.”
The whistleblower protection law, signed in 2012, prevents the executive branch from barring agencies from communicating with Congress.
Democrats are taking the moves seriously. A separate group of Democrats from the House Appropriations Committee sent Trump a letter raising concerns about the White House’s move to restrict the EPA’s actions on issuing grants.
Veteran employees meanwhile told The New York Times Thursday that Trump’s orders were similar to those made by the Obama administration as it shifted policies from its predecessor, the Bush administration.
“I’ve lived through many transitions, and I don’t think this is a story,” an unnamed long-time EPA employee told NYT. “I don’t think it’s fair to call it a gag order.”
“This is standard practice,” the employee said. “And the move with regard to the grants, when a new administration comes in, you run things by them before you update the website.”
The Trump administration also directed Department of State to scrub several pages highlighting various climate policies once lauded by the Obama administration from its website.
Pages detailing climate policy initiatives such as the Green Climate Fund, a Climate Action Report, as well as other pages on global climate finance have been deleted from the State Department website.