An odd front emerged in the early days of the new presidential administration in the fight between those opposed to Donald Trump’s fascist agenda and those backing it — science.
Reports emerged soon after Trump was inaugurated that his administration had effectively placed a gag order on scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Later reports added that a similar “gag order” was in place for staffers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
What the gag orders boiled down to was that staffers of the previously mentioned agencies were forbidden from making “private” or public social media postings, speaking to the press, or in any other way going public with details taken from their work.
Coupled with this gag order came other disturbing measures, such as an across the board federal hiring freeze and the order to stop any and all new grant programs at the EPA, although that latter order has reportedly been walked back. Also at the EPA, scientists were reportedly ordered to strike the page on climate change from the agency’s website, just as the page on climate change was among the many items struck from the White House website within hours after Trump’s swearing-in.
Thus, what could have been a normal transition of power from one presidential administration to the next quickly and unsurprisingly became a horror-fest that was laced with poison designed to kill the nation’s efforts towards such causes as combating climate change and building the renewable energy industry.
Now, House Democrats are saying that what Trump is doing and has done to the federal agencies that he’s targeted is likely illegal. What the House Democrats who have taken a stand against these moves from the new president point to in their opposition to Trump is the legal protections for whistleblowers who intend to speak to Congress, protections that are not at all honored by Trump’s gag orders.
Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings of Maryland sent a publicly available letter to White House counsel Donald McGahn, asking him to investigate the legality of Trump’s moves in light of their concerns for the protection of the already long existing whistleblowing channels.
As their letter read:
‘This [gag order] appears to violate all of these laws, and it creates the impression that the Trump administration intends to muzzle whistleblowers. For more than a century, Congress has protected the rights of federal employees to communicate with Congress about waste, fraud and abuse in the executive branch.’
Indeed, their concerns are the farthest thing from outlandish. After all, the executive orders that Trump has been signing at what amounts to a breakneck speed have reportedly been being pushed through with little to no regard as to their legality.
A group of House Democrats from the House Appropriations Committee also stood up Trump’s treatment of the EPA, specifically addressing his grant program freeze, and writing, “The administration failed to notify Congress and the state environmental agencies of its freeze on EPA grant and contract funds and has refused to respond to state agency inquiries.”
Featured Image via Andrew Harrer/ Bloomberg via Getty Images.