House Democrats are threatening the salaries of Interior, Commerce and Justice Department staff if they block ongoing committee investigations.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent letters Tuesday calling for eight current and former Trump administration officials to provide information for two of the panel’s investigations, cautioning that officials who block the interviews from taking place could see their salaries withheld.
“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 wrote in the letters.
The move is the latest in an escalating power struggle between the Trump administration and House Democrats over investigations. Tensions between the White House and congressional Democrats have amplified in recent weeks, with President Trump telling reporters last month that he plans to fight “all the subpoenas.”
The committee noted seven of the eight interview requests recently made related to the panel’s probes were either denied or remain unanswered.
One interview request related to the addition of a question on citizenship to the 2020 census, and another was on whether Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and his staff complied with federal record-keeping laws.
In a letter sent to Director of Congressional and Legislative Affairs Cole Rojewski, Cummings noted the Department of Interior has not made Catherine Gulac, the administrative assistant to the deputy secretary; Gareth Rees, the executive assistant to the Office of the Deputy Secretary and Todd Willens, the acting chief of staff and associate deputy secretary — the four officials the committee asked to interview for the Interior probe — available, nor has the department provided documents requested by the committee despite receiving the request in March.
Cummings was joined by Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) in sending separate letters to Gene Hamilton, the Department of Justice counselor to the attorney general; Department of Commerce general counsel Peter Davidson; Earl Comstock, the Department of Commerce deputy chief of staff and director of policy; and James Uthmeier, the former senior adviser and counsel to the secretary of Commerce, calling upon the officials come to Capitol Hill to be interviewed later this month on the census question.
Author: Juliegrace Brufke