Committee Seeks Full Compliance with Demand for White House Documents re: 2017 Hurricanes

WASHINGTON, D.C. July 2, 2019 – Yesterday, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Harley Rouda, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Environment, sent a letter to inform Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney that, due to the Trump Administration’s complete refusal to produce a single piece of paper in response to the Committee’s investigation of the Trump Administration’s preparation for and response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Committee will have no choice but to seek compulsory process.

“It is unacceptable for the White House to completely ignore valid requests from this Committee, particularly when they are based on strong, clear, and bipartisan precedents, and especially when they relate to the death of thousands of American citizens,” Cummings and Rouda wrote.  

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“Your actions stand in stark contrast to the Bush Administration, which produced tens of thousands of documents in response to a nearly identical request.  The only difference is that far more people died in Puerto Rico in 2017 than as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2006,” the Chairmen added.

“The President’s public defiance of all congressional oversight not only obstructs us from fulfilling our responsibility under the Constitution to conduct credible oversight, but it also insults the memory of the Americans who lost their lives as a result of this disaster,” they added.

On May 6, 2019, all 24 Democratic Members of the Committee wrote to the White House seeking documents relating to the Administration response to the 2017 hurricanes.  It has now been nearly two months, but the White House has not produced a single page in response to this request.

In their letter, the Democrats explained the bipartisan precedent for their request, which is nearly identical to a request in 2005 from then-Chairman Tom Davis seeking documents regarding the response to Hurricane Katrina.  The Bush White House turned over tens of thousands of pages of documents in response to that investigation.

“Since it appears that the Trump Administration failed in at least some respects to learn the lessons from Hurricane Katrina, the Committee is considering legislative action to improve the laws governing the preplanning of emergency contracts, clarify the timing and transparency of chain of command decision-making, and provide additional mechanisms for sharing information on the ground in a timely manner, among others,” the Chairmen wrote.  “The Committee also may make recommendations to other committees regarding the appropriations of funds in advance of, during, and after disasters of this magnitude.”

The Democrats directed the White House’s attention to a staff report issued by then-Ranking Member Cummings on September 6, 2018, that explains in detail some of the issues the Committee is investigating.  These include, but are not limited to, the apparent lack of presidential engagement and direction; the failure to lead a coordinated response; the failure to adequately plan for food and fuel contracts prior to the hurricanes; an apparent lack of communications between the White House and entities on the ground; and the reasons for the President’s inaccurate statements regarding the crisis.

Democrats first requested these documents on October 11, 2017, when they  were in the minority.  The White House completely disregarded that request as well.

Click here to read today’s letter.