Amplifying Oversight in 2019 — Starting Today

The new Congress is sworn in today, and American Oversight is ready. For two years, we’ve been holding the Trump administration accountable, but now a new House majority will be joining the oversight business.

We’ve laid the groundwork by filing nearly 600 Freedom of Information Act requests and more than 15 lawsuits targeting records that are likely to be the subjects of congressional investigations, and we are prepared to go to court so that the administration can’t duck accountability.

In late December, the incoming chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, sent 51 letters to administration officials, demanding information on myriad administration policies, including the separation of immigrant children from their parents at the border, Ivanka Trump’s use of personal email, and inappropriate taxpayer-funded travel. American Oversight has open lawsuits on the family-separation policy and on improper email practices, and has been investigating cabinet officials’ spending habits for over a year. And these aren’t the only issues we’re investigating that align with Congress’s plans.

Also last month, Rep. Jerry Nadler, the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter demanding that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testify before the committee by the end of January. Given Whitaker’s political and financial conflicts of interest, there is widespread concern that his position at the Justice Department is intended to protect President Trump from the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. American Oversight has filed multiple FOIA requests for more information about Whitaker’s appointment and his ethics conflicts.

Of course, relevant hearings won’t begin until the partial government shutdown is lifted, which depends on the president dropping his demand for $5 billion for a border wall — a demand that is merely a rhetorical tool not backed up by any real preparation on the part of the administration.

For the past two years, lawmakers looked the other way while ethics scandals piled up. With independent watchdog groups like American Oversight on one side and the new Congress on the other, the president and his administration will no longer be able to count on this blindness.