In early April, Chairman Jeb Hensarling of the House Financial Services Committee sent a series of letters to 12 Trump administration agencies — including the Treasury Department — instructing them that communications between the committee and those agencies should not be released to the public when responding to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
According to Buzzfeed’s reporting:
“The chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services sent a letter last month to the head of the Treasury Department instructing him to decline Freedom of Information requests relating to communications between the two offices. … The letter reads that since the Committee on Financial Services has legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the Treasury Department, all records of communication between the two offices and any documents produced remain in the committee’s control — even when in the physical possession of the Treasury Department.”
FOIA generally applies to the executive branch, and it gives the public a right to access a wide range of government records. There are a variety of reasons that the government can withhold certain information — such as to protect national security or personal privacy — but the law does not contain a blanket exemption for congressional correspondence with the executive branch, and the public is entitled to those records.