President Donald Trump hasn’t exactly marked his time in office by being open to suggestions about how to conduct himself. As the continuous train of high-profile departures kept up earlier this year, acting NOAA administrator Tim Gallaudet got removed from his post by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in February, and now a pro-democracy group called Democracy Forward is suing as part of an effort to find out exactly why. Gallaudet’s departure came shortly after he told a late 2018 science conference that Trump had apparently not yet asked to be briefed on a single climate-related issue by those at the agency in charge of handling them. Trump has consistently tried to downplay the threat of climate change, mocking the concept on numerous occasions over the years.
The new lawsuit comes after the plantiff group filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in May for documents surrounding Gallaudet’s departure, but authorities refused to comply with that request. After a certain period of noncompliance, filers generally end up taking the targeted authorities to court in their quest for the documents in question. Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy insisted:
‘The Trump administration’s attacks on scientists speaking the truth are dangerous. We’re suing to expose improper attempts to politicize NOAA because the public needs to be able to count on science agencies to do their jobs without political interference.’
The possibly politically-motivated, forced departure of Gallaudet earlier this year is definitely not the only issue threatening that trust. Just recently, Trump went on a days-long bender in support of his demonstrably false idea that Alabama at any point stood to receive major impacts from Hurricane Dorian. This included middle of the night messages posted to Twitter mocking members of the media for pointing out his error, even though — quite literally — if it was allowed to go unchecked, large numbers of people would have been left potentially fearing and preparing for a potentially devastating storm that in reality, never would have hit them.
Originally, he’d made the mistake in a tweet about the storm, including the state’s name in a list where he shouldn’t have been — and after that, he dug into his position relentlessly, and Ross even pressured top NOAA brass to keep their agency in line rather than correcting the demonstrably wrong, fragile-ego’ed Trump. How far are they willing to go to protect Trump’s ego? What and who are they willing to sacrifice?
The tumult at NOAA — where the president’s nominee for leader’s confirmation process has been consistently delayed due to issues like sexual harassment and conflict of interest allegations — is not alone in the story of the Trump administration.
Leaders of areas from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the State and Defense Departments have come and gone under various circumstances. Scott Pruitt left the EPA under a dizzying cloud of scandals centering on him using his position for personal financial benefit, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke left under similar scandal. One of his cases was even forwarded to the Justice Department for investigation.
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