Johnson: Commerce Department Obstructing Hurricane Dorian Investigation

Eddie Bernice Johnson

DALLAS (Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson PR) — Today, the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General Peggy Gustafson sent a memo to Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross expressing concerns over the Department’s obstruction of a completed Office of Inspector General (OIG) report.

The OIG report examines a statement issued on September 6, 2019, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regarding a tweet sent by the Birmingham National Weather Service forecast office.

The memorandum asserts that the Department is declaring “amorphous claims of privilege that would not withstand scrutiny.” The memo also suggests that the objections could be “retaliatory posturing” in response to the OIG’s findings.

The OIG notes that these objections have halted the publication of the report, thereby preventing the OIG from complying with Section 8M of the IG Act by releasing the report publicly on Monday, June 29, as noted in the summary memorandum from the OIG dated June 26, 2020.

The memorandum requests that the Department submit their markings of proposed redactions by 3:00 p.m. EST on July 9, 2020.

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) made the following statement. 

“It is disturbing that the Department of Commerce appears to be obstructing the Office of Inspector General from releasing its report on an incident surrounding political interference into the communication of Hurricane Dorian forecasts. It is imperative that the OIG is able to complete its job and inform Congress and the American people about its findings.

“We are currently experiencing an above-average hurricane season, and we must be able to trust that the Federal government’s communication of hurricane forecasts is not tainted by political interference. As long as the Department continues to suppress this report, this is not the case. Furthermore, any attempted retaliation against the OIG for adhering to its legal requirement to make its reports public would be transparently corrupt. I support the OIG in its effort to publish this report despite the Department’s obstruction.”