Chairs Connolly and Maloney Investigate Misleading Testimony on White House Proposal to Eliminate OPM
Washington, D.C. (July 1, 2020)— Today, Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerald E. Connolly and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney requested transcribed interviews with General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Emily Murphy, GSA General Counsel Jack St. John, Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Michael Rigas, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Senior Advisor Stephen Billy, and OPM General Counsel Mark Robbins about whether they misled Congress when they testified about the Trump Administration’s plans to abolish OPM.
According to the Project on Government Oversight, they obtained a copy of notes from a conference call in April 2019 during which the head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Department of Justice (DOJ) advised attorneys from OPM, GSA, and OMB that they lacked legal authority to eliminate OPM. These notes also indicated this legal advice was provided as an oral “opinion” from OLC.
At two subsequent hearings, Administration officials failed to disclose these facts despite questioning from multiple Members and failed to produce the documents despite multiple requests.
“This OLC legal opinion apparently was rendered months before two hearings before the Subcommittee in which OPM and OMB officials were asked explicitly for any legal advice they received regarding the proposed elimination of OPM,” Connolly and Maloney wrote. “This new information raises questions about whether former Deputy Director of Management of OMB and former Acting Director of OPM Margaret Weichert, as well as then-OPM Deputy Chief of Staff Stephen Billy, misled Congress when they concealed this meeting, this legal advice, and these notes.”
In response to news about the existence of notes documenting the April 2019 call with OLC, an OPM spokesperson reportedly stated: “This story is false. The Office of Legal Counsel never issued an opinion prohibiting the proposed reorganization of GSA and OPM.”
“This carefully worded statement is just as misleading as the previous testimony of Administration officials before the Subcommittee,” Connolly and Maloney wrote. “If OLC in fact held a conference call with agency attorneys in which it delivered a legal ‘opinion’ that the White House plan to eliminate OPM was illegal—and if there are contemporaneous notes of this call—it does not matter if OLC never reduced this opinion to a final written report. Concealing these facts from the Subcommittee is both disingenuous and an abuse of the trust that public officials owe to Congress and the American people.”
The Chairs also requested documents and information from DOJ regarding any OLC advice concerning the proposal.
They also sent a letter to the OPM Inspector General requesting an investigation into the actions of former Acting OPM Director and then-OPM Deputy Chief of Staff Billy.
Click here to read the letter to GSA.
Click here to read the letter to OPM and OMB.
Click here to read the letter to DOJ Office of Legal Counsel.
Click here to read the letter to the Inspector General.