In Wake of Trump Comments on Immigrants, Cummings and Lynch Seek Subpoenas on White House Efforts to Doctor Refugee Report
Washington, D.C. (Jan. 12, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to Chairman Trey Gowdy requesting the Committee issue subpoenas to compel the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to finally produce documents and communications they have been withholding from Congress for more than three months regarding the Trump Administration’s efforts to suppress and doctor a recent report highlighting the positive net economic contributions of refugees.
“President Trump’s statements yesterday denigrating immigrants and refugees from African nations, Haiti, and other ‘sh*thole’ countries were abhorrent,” the Ranking Members wrote. “They reflect either a fundamental ignorance about the history and ideals of our nation or an effort to implement as official policy the worst types of nationalist and racist elements of our society. In either case, they continue President Trump’s pattern of what even House Speaker Paul Ryan has referred to as the ‘textbook definition’ of racist remarks.”
On September 26, 2017, Ranking Members Cummings and Lynch sent letters to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and then-Secretary of HHS Tom Price requesting documents in response to a New York Times report that White House officials pressured agency staff to remove from a draft report all references to the economic benefits of refugees.
According to the Times, “Trump administration officials, under pressure from the White House to provide a rationale for reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year, rejected a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost.”
“Today, we are writing to request that the Committee issue subpoenas to compel the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to finally produce documents and communications they have been withholding from Congress for more than three months regarding the Trump Administration’s efforts to doctor a recent report on refugees in order to manipulate its contents, extract all references to the tens of billions of dollars in economic benefits that refugees provide to our country, and generate an illegitimate rationale for slashing the refugee admissions cap to its lowest level in decades,” the Ranking Members wrote to Gowdy.
With respect to which White House officials were involved in this effort, the Times specifically mentioned Stephen Miller, President Trump’s chief policy advisor: “The issue has sparked intense debate within his administration as opponents of the program, led by Mr. Trump’s chief policy adviser, Stephen Miller, assert that continuing to welcome refugees is too costly and raises concerns about terrorism.”
The Times also cited internal emails referencing Mr. Miller’s role in this effort: “An internal email, dated Sept. 5 and sent among officials from government agencies involved in refugee issues, said that ‘senior leadership is questioning the assumptions used to produce the report.’ A separate email said that Mr. Miller had requested a meeting to discuss the report. The Times was shown the emails on condition that the sender not be identified. Mr. Miller personally intervened in the discussions on the refugee cap to ensure that only the costs—not any fiscal benefit—of the program were considered, according to two people familiar with the talks.”
One day after the Ranking Members sent their original letter, on September 27, 2017, the Trump Administration announced that it was decreasing the refugee admissions cap to 45,000 for the coming year, amounting to “the lowest that any White House has sought since the president began setting the ceiling on refugee admissions in 1980.”
“The White House has refused to respond in any way to our letter on September 26, 2017, and it has not provided any of the documents we requested, such as drafts of the reports or communications about White House efforts to doctor the results,” the Ranking Members wrote to Gowdy. “On November 27, 2017, HHS sent a letter also declining to provide any of the requested documents. For these reasons, we request that you issue subpoenas to compel the White House and HHS to produce, by January 26, 2018, all of the documents they have been withholding from Congress for the past three months.”
“If you choose not to do so, then we ask that you place this matter on the agenda for our next regularly scheduled business meeting so all Committee Members will have the opportunity to vote on a motion to issue this subpoena,” they concluded.
Click here to read today’s letter.