What are the Democrats going to do to Donald Trump and his administration now that the president sent down his edict from on high that no member, past or present, can testify? The president plays such a good victim, claiming that the Democrats are harassing him, that voters tend to often become confused. That means that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s people must find ways to walk the narrow pathway between moving government and giving in to Trump’s dare to impeach him.
The House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is not a man to play with. The Interior Department has obeyed Trump and blocked the committee from doing its job as set forth by the Constitution. Cummings called upon members of that department to testify about whether Secretary David Bernhardt had been complying with the laws that control record keeping, according to The POLITICO magazine.
With the various Trump agencies withholding the documents the Democrats need to do their legal duty and ignoring calls to testify, Cummings has decided to play hardball. The committee has threatened to withhold the salaries of those employees who do not comply with its requests.
The Oversight Committee chair released a prepared statement:
‘Please be advised that any official at the Department who “prohibits or prevents” or attempts or threatens to prohibit or prevent’ any officer or employee of the Federal Government from speaking with the Committee could have his or her salary withheld pursuant to section 713 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.’
Cummings referenced a 2016 GAO (Government Accounting Office) report that said a department’s budget’:
‘(A) ppropriation was not available to pay the salary of a federal officer or employee who prevents another federal officer or employee from communicating directly with any member, committee, or subcommittee of Congress.’
Cummings wrote a letter to Interior’s Director of Congressional and Legislative Affairs Coel Rojewski stating:
‘(The agency) does not appear to recognize that Congress is an independent and co-equal branch of government (and able to conduct investigations).’
The Oversight Committee has requested a response to interviews with the following Department of the Interior’s people by Friday:
‘(A)dministrative assistant to the deputy secretary, scheduling and advance director, executive assistant to the office of the deputy secretary, and acting chief of staff and associate deputy secretary.’
The Oversight and National Archives and Records Administration have been investigating whether Bernhardt did not calendar meetings or give the public the opportunity to attend them.
Interior officials bombarded the Oversight Committee with tens of thousands of unrelated pages of documents rather than comply with its request for specific documents, according to Cummings’ letter.
Given that the House has the power of the purse, Cummings has also threatened to withhold salaries of Commerce Department officials in order to force them to come before the Oversight Committee. The questions would revolve around the citizenship question it tried to add to the 2020 Census. The Secretary of Commerce tried to illegally slip a question about a person’s citizenship in order to intimidate Democrats and independents from voting.