The White House has reportedly instructed federal agencies to ignore oversight requests made by congressional Democrats. The reported reason is that the administration does not want the minority party to be given any political ammunition against President Donald Trump.
Since Trump's inauguration in January, Democratic lawmakers have voiced frustration with their oversight inquiries to federal agencies going unanswered.
The reason, according to sources within the administration, is that the White House instructed those agencies to disregard all oversight requests made by Democrats, Politico reports.
On June 2, a senior Democratic aide asserted that Senate Democrats had submitted 225 oversight requests since Trump's inauguration. He also said: "When it comes to almost anything we've done at a federal agency, very close to 100 percent of those we haven't heard anything back."
On May 1, Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York submitted what she believed to be a nonpartisan request to the Office of Personnel Management inquiring about cybersecurity.
"The answer we got back is, 'We only speak to the chair people of committees'... I was dumbfounded at their response," Rice recalled. "I had never gotten anything like that."
An anonymous Trump administration official disclosed that White House lawyer Uttam Dhillon had ordered the federal agencies not to honor any Democratic oversight inquiries. The official asserted that Democrats would not be "responding to every minority member request if they were in the same position."
A retired GOP senior staffer noted that Republican lawmakers' oversight inquiries were sometimes ignored during former President Barack Obama's tenure.
"What I do not remember is a blanket request from the Obama administration not to respond to Republicans," the former GOP staffer added.
Former State Department lawyer Austin Evers of the Obama administration warned that Dhillon's order could damage the trust between Congress and federal staffers.
"Instructing agencies not to communicate with members of the minority party will poison the well," Evers said. "It will damage relationships between career staffers at agencies and subject matter experts in Congress."
Rice asserted that it would be dangerous as far as national security for federal agencies to stonewall Democrats.
"Congress has the right to ask these questions and have these questions answered," Rice told The Huffington Post. "Particularly on homeland security, you would hope this would be the one issue that could rise above the partisan divide.”
An anonymous White House spokeswoman clarified that the Trump administration's rule was that federal agencies would only respond to oversight requests made or co-signed by congressional committee chairmen "regardless of their political party."
All committee chairmen in Congress are currently GOP lawmakers.