WASHINGTON, D.C. (Raul Grijalva/Maria Canwell PR) – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Senate Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who lead the committees of jurisdiction over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross demanding that the Trump administration stop interfering with the Department of Commerce Inspector General’s (IG) “Sharpiegate” investigation that was scheduled to be released last week.
The report evaluates the alleged political interference in NOAA’s communication of critical information about Hurricane Dorian in September 2019, when President Trump inaccurately claimed that Hurricane Dorian would put Alabama at risk of storm damage. Based on a publicly available transmittal memo, the report is expected to conclude that the Department of Commerce led a flawed process and failed to account for the public safety intent of National Weather Service communications.
The lawmakers’ letter, available at https://bit.ly/2O2hueE, echoes the “deep concern” of IG Peggy Gustafson that the Trump administration is impeding the release of the IG’s full evaluation by refusing to provide the necessary review before it the full release. The lawmakers write:
We join Ms. Gustafson in calling on Commerce to provide her office, no later than July 9, 2020, “formal privilege markings—that are precise and unambiguous and include the privilege being claimed—to the report and its appendixes,” or to “confirm that the Department seeks no privilege redactions and consequently acknowledges that the report will be posted without redaction.”
In light of the protracted discussions that already appear to have occurred between Commerce and the IG on this issue, should Commerce not provide such information in a good faith manner by the specified date, we believe the IG will be fully within her authority to release the report without further delay, in whatever form she deems necessary and appropriate.
Secretary Ross’ attempts to subvert this investigation are startling and unprecedent. His actions fall in line with the Trump administration’s relentless efforts to silence government scientists and thwart oversight and President Trump’s unrelenting attack of inspectors general across the federal government.