Deafening Silence: How Are Executive Branch Agencies Responding to Questions from the Press and Congress?
What We’re Seeking:
- Memos or guidance circulated within executive branch agencies regarding how to answer questions from the media or members of Congress.
Shortly after President Trump took office, there were reports that the new administration was placing restrictions on how employees of certain federal agencies could communicate with the public. Politico confirmed those reports on June 2, detailing an official Trump administration policy that barred executive branch agencies from responding to inquiries from Democrats in Congress.
According to the Washington Post, Democratic Senators have compiled a list of more than 200 questions that have gone unanswered, including routine inquiries about government programs as well as broader policy questions.
Failure to answer even the most basic questions has become a disturbing pattern across the Trump administration. In an effort to impede Congressional and public scrutiny of its actions, the administration appears to be rejecting all requests for information from anyone other than Republican committee chairmen, including even straightforward questions about routine government operations. This prevents members of Congress from assisting Americans with issues like Social Security benefits, and it denies the public the ability to learn what our government is doing with our tax dollars.
American Oversight is requesting the following information from a number of executive branch agencies:
- Any memoranda, policies, rules, protocols, restrictions, directives, guidance, or other guidelines addressing the provision of information to representatives of the press or media by employees of the agency (including but not limited to responses to requests for information or other communication). This request includes any such directives or guidance issued internally by the agency or issued to the agency by the White House or any other office.
- Any memoranda, policies, rules, protocols, restrictions, directives, guidance, or other guidelines addressing the provision of information to Congress, including members or staff, by employees of the agency (including but not limited to responses to requests for information or other communication). This request includes any such directives or guidance issued internally by the agency or issued to the agency by the White House or any other office.
To date, we have submitted this FOIA request to the following agencies:
- Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Homeland Security
- Department of Energy
- Reply May 19, 2017 – No responsive records
- Department of the Interior
- Department of Education
- Environmental Protection Agency
- General Services Administration
- Internal Revenue Service
- Reply May 5, 2017 – No responsive records
- National Park Service
- Reply May 15, 2017 – No responsive records
- Department of Agriculture
- Bureau of Land Management
- Department of Commerce
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Forest Service
- Geological Survey
- Reply May 4, 2017 – No responsive records
- Fish and Wildlife Service