Cummings Urges Committee Chairman to Obtain Documents from Snyder After Governor Ignores Congressional Request

Feb 22, 2016
Press Release

Cummings Urges Committee Chairman to Obtain Documents from Snyder After Governor Ignores Congressional Request

Cummings Rejects Snyder’s Potential “Executive Privilege” Claim; Warns of Partisan “Double-Standard” for Republican Governor

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 22, 2016)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz requesting that he compel Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to produce documents relating to the Flint water crisis originally requested by Cummings and Rep. Brenda Lawrence in a letter on January 29, 2016—a request Snyder has completely ignored to date. 

Cummings wrote that after speaking directly with Snyder, Chaffetz stated that one reason not to request documents from him is because he might claim executive privilege over his communications—directly contradicting commitments Snyder made in his State of the State address on January 19, 2016.

“Although I was not a part of your conversation with Governor Snyder,” Cummings wrote, “any claim of executive privilege to withhold documents from Congress would be a surprising turn of events that directly contradicts the Governor’s own promises of accountability to the people of Michigan.”

“It is difficult to understand how Governor Snyder’s public claims of accountability would be consistent with an assertion of executive privilege over the documents we requested last month,” Cummings added.  “Instead of withholding our request for documents based on the possibility that Governor Snyder may assert executive privilege, the Committee should make the request and allow the Governor to respond himself.”

Cummings also noted that Chaffetz previously sent sweeping document requests to the Democratic Governor of Oregon as part of the Committee’s year-long investigation into that state’s healthcare exchange under the Affordable Care Act, and the Governor’s office has produced thousands of pages of emails and other documents in response.

“By declining to send any document request at all to Governor Snyder, the Committee is creating the perception of a double-standard in which it requests documents from a Democratic governor, but not from a Republican governor,” Cummings wrote.  “There is no legitimate basis for treating governors differently based on their political parties, and I believe the Committee should insist on the same level of compliance from the Republican Governor of Michigan that it has required of the Democratic Governor of Oregon.”

Cummings also rejected claims that the Committee should not request documents from Snyder because his productions in response to public records requests have been sufficient.  As Cummings wrote, “his document disclosures in response to FOIA and other requests have been only a selective subset of documents that he has chosen to release—not a comprehensive response to a request from Congress.” 

“[W]hen the Committee declines to send any document request to Governor Snyder, this inaction undermines our ability to investigate this crisis and creates an unfortunate and unnecessary perception of partisanship,” Cummings wrote.  “The Committee has never accepted this practice as an adequate standard of investigation, and we should not do so now.  Governor Snyder and his staff are central figures in the decision-making process that led to the poisoning of Flint residents, and the Committee owes it to these residents to conduct a comprehensive and bipartisan investigation.”

Click here to read Cummings’ letter. 

114th Congress