Committee Presses Investigation of Administration’s Attempt to Remove Education Department Watchdog
Washington, D.C. (May 30, 2019)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Committee Member Rep. Mark DeSaulnier sent a letter in response to the Department of Education’s ongoing refusal to produce documents regarding an attempt to remove Acting Inspector General Sandra D. Bruce—who was investigating the actions of Secretary Betsy DeVos—and replace her with Deputy General Counsel Philip H. Rosenfelt.
Their letter directs the Department to produce all requested documents by June 10 and also seeks a transcribed interview with Deputy Secretary of Education Mitchell Zais.
“Rather than cooperate with our investigation, the Department is obstructing Congress’ constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight,” Cummings and DeSaulnier wrote. “The Department has repeatedly blocked this inquiry, refused to provide requested documents, made inappropriate redactions to the few documents that were provided, and even ignored a request from a Member of Congress to discuss this matter further.”
Cummings first requested the documents with the Chairs and Ranking Members of several other committees in a letter on February 19, 2019.
On May 15, 2019, the Acting General Counsel responded with a letter refusing to produce the documents and claiming that the Department is “unclear about Congress’ legislative need and authority over such deliberations.”
“The Department’s belated and baseless claim that you do not understand Congress’ legislative and oversight authority is obstructing our investigation and appears to be part of an unprecedented cover-up by the Trump Administration across multiple Executive Branch agencies and departments,” Cummings and DeSaulnier wrote.
In their letter today, Cummings and DeSaulnier cited numerous examples of the Committee’s legislative authority and oversight jurisdiction over Inspectors General. They also provided examples of past legislation and investigations, and they explained that the Committee is currently investigating whether the Department honored the independence of the Office of Inspector General, pressured the Acting Inspector General to drop an investigation, sought to remove the Acting Inspector General, or sought to replace her with a conflicted agency insider.
Click to read today’s letter.