Council on Environmental Quality Communications With Congressional Staff About Infrastructure Proposals

Emails between Alex Herrgott, associate director of infrastructure for the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and congressional staff regarding the president’s infrastructure plan. These records include communications between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office and the White House before the Feb. 2018 rollout of President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan. Detailed notes are below.


In these documents:

Page 62: On June 9, 2017, Adrian Arnakis — then a policy adviser for the Senate Commerce Committee — emailed President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan to White House Council on Environmental Quality official Alex Herrgott, with the subject line “$25 billion?” and commented, “Looks like our piece of the pie got smaller…..”

Herrgott replied: “I’ll call you about this today. Not accurate.” In October 2018, Arnakis was named senior vice president of government affairs at the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Pages 2,678–2,685: Joseph Lai, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs, invited Terry Van Doren, policy adviser for McConnell, to a December 2017 meeting at the White House. He looped in White House staffers D.J. Gribbin, Alex Herrgott, and Reed Cordish. Van Doren wrote that the meeting would discuss the agenda for a later and bigger briefing on infrastructure priorities with Republican staff from “EPW, Banking, Commerce at a minimum and maybe Finance.” Later, Van Doren and presidential aide Joseph Lai confirm a meeting between White House staff and McConnell’s staff for the infrastructure briefing on Dec. 15, 2017.

Page 2,730: Confirmation of lunchtime meeting between McConnell staff and White House staff on infrastructure priorities for Dec. 19, 2017. The expected attendees are Cordish, Lai, Tim Pataki, Herrgott, Gribbin, Van Doren, Geoff Antell, and Michael “Fish” Pawlowski. 

Pages 2,739–2,745: On Dec. 14, 2017,  House Judiciary staffer Daniel Flores sent Alex Herrgott a draft of a bill, writing, ”We would welcome your input regarding the bill in general and whether the principles it embodies could in one way or another make it into the White House’s statement of principles on infrastructure next month. Please keep it on a close hold for the time being, though.” 

McConnell staffer sends Herrgott and Lai the list of people who will attend the infrastructure briefing on Dec. 15, 2017. 

Page 2,783: After a meeting with Herrgott, Van Doren forwarded him a letter that Sens. Roy Blunt and Tammy Baldwin had sent to the Office of Management and Budget on locks, dams, and waterways. Van Doren mentions they hadn’t discussed the topic enough in their earlier meeting.

Pages 2,795–2,799: Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s chief of staff, Michael “Fish” Pawlowski, emailed Lai on Jan. 24, 2018, to ask for a meeting. Lai responded, “We did an extensive meeting with Energy Committee majority staff last week to discuss Murkowski priorities. That said, Alex Herrgott and I can come by to chat in more detail after SOTU if that works for you.” 

Van Doren emailed Herrgott and Gribbin, asking if federal budget delays will delay the infrastructure plan’s rollout: “Thanks in advance for your work and keeping us in the loop.”

Page 2821: Gribbin responded to Van Doren about the delay of the infrastructure bill due to federal budget delays: The “President said yesterday that release will be 1-2 weeks after SOTU. Actual date has not been locked down, but we are close.” The infrastructure plan was released about a week and a half after the State of the Union.

Pages 2,888–2,889: On May 11, 2017, Ian Jefferies — then working in government affairs for AAR and now the group’s president and CEO — sent Herrgott a bulleted list of policy comments regarding investment and tax credits in the transportation sector. Herrgott forwarded the list to Patrick Fuchs, a Senate Commerce Committee staffer, and wrote, “Can you reality check these for me?” 

Fuchs replied that the “first two would cause a meltdown of nearly every shipper group in the country – chemical/oil, ag, coal, etc.”

Page 2,898: On May 30, 2017, Herrgott forwarded an email to Luke Holland, Senator Jim Inhofe’s chief of staff, with the subject line “re: Favor.” Herrgott asked Holland for assistance in preparing for “Infrastructure Week” by gathering talking points on Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: “What were the disastrous elements of Obama’s stimulus bill? I’m thinking of having the President reference that legislation as what not to do, but need half a dozen talking points on its major failings.”

For American Oversight’s reporting on earlier productions from this FOIA request, click here.