House Democrats threaten to withhold salaries of Trump officials who ignore interview requests – By Vaishnavee Sharma (Washington Examiner) / May 7 2019
The House Oversight Committee on Tuesday threatened to withhold the salaries of Interior, Commerce, and Justice Department officials who block lawmakers from interviewing their agencies’ employees.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., sent letters seeking transcribed interviews with eight current and former officials as part of two ongoing House investigations. The probes relate to the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s compliance with federal record-keeping laws.
The letters warned 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 a clause in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.
According to a press release from the Committee, Tuesday’s letters follow seven out of eight previous requests for interviews that were “denied or have gone unanswered.”
Cummings’ letter to Cole Rojewski, the Interior Department’s director of congressional and legislative affairs, alleges that the agency “does not appear to recognize that Congress is an independent and co-equal branch of government.”
The committee has asked for responses by Friday.
The addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census has been a bone of contention between the two major parties ever since the Commerce Department announced the addition in March 2018, in what it claimed was an effort to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. Three federal judges have since blocked the department from proceeding with the plan, and the Supreme Court in April heard arguments on the matter.
The letters to officials in Bernhardt’s department follow allegations that he was holding official meetings without noting them on his official calendars and withholding related information from the public.
Bernhardt was confirmed to his role in April this year despite Democratic opposition to his nomination.