Cummings Issues Statement on Partisan GOP Staff Report on FEMA Hurricane Response
Washington, D.C. (Oct. 24, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement in response to a partisan Republican staff report issued by Chairman Trey Gowdy on the Administration’s response to the 2017 hurricanes:
“Today’s partisan Republican staff report has a massive, glaring omission—there is no discussion whatsoever of the role of President Trump or White House officials in mobilizing or managing the response to the hurricane. Chairman Gowdy refused my repeated requests to follow the example of his Republican predecessor, Chairman Tom Davis, who obtained more than 20,000 pages of documents from the Bush White House after Hurricane Katrina. Although today’s report repeatedly lauds Chairman Davis’ ‘exhaustive’ report on Hurricane Katrina, Chairman Gowdy refused to request even a single document or briefing from the Trump White House, instead walling it off from congressional scrutiny. As a result, this partisan staff report fails to explain why President Trump went to his golf club in the weekend after the storm, delayed appointing a commanding general, and continues to downplay the number of Americans who died to this day.”
Ironically, some of the only new information in this Republican staff report comes from investigative steps taken by the Democratic staff. Without attribution, some investigations referenced in the Republican staff report were led, and at times exclusively investigated, by the Committee’s minority staff, but the Republicans did not consult with the minority in any way on their report.
For example, on February 6, 2018, Ranking Member Cummings and Rep. Stacey Plaskett sent a letter asking Chairman Gowdy to issue a subpoena to compel FEMA to produce documents relating to its failure to provide tens of millions of emergency meals to U.S. citizens who were victims of the hurricanes in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria (the Tribute Contracting investigation). Yet, Gowdy never issued a subpoena and never obtained any new documents relating to the botched Tribute contract.
In addition, on Sept. 13, 2018, Cummings released internal documents from the Department of Defense that raised serious questions about President Trump’s many public statements lauding his Administration’s response, ignoring its failures, and claiming that the death toll of nearly 3,000 people was a fictional account manufactured by his political opponents.
For example, an unclassified intelligence assessment prepared for Defense Secretary James Mattis and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford, on September 25, 2017—just five days after the hurricane struck Puerto Rico—warned of the “potential for government failure and the resulting humanitarian crisis,” as well as the “growingly desperate population.”
In addition, communications from first responders on the ground in Puerto Rico, including an exchange on September 29, 2017, reported that search and rescue teams had begun finding “mass graves in mud slide areas.” These officials reported: “don’t know if it’s families, or an entire town that was trying to avoid flooding and got buried my [sic] land slide. Planning for the worst.”