Democrats Demand Oversight Hearing as Trump White House Stonewalls GAO Investigators

Lawmakers say administration's refusal to answer agency requests could "impair Congress from fulfilling its constitutional oversight responsibilities"

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President Donald Trump waves as he walks on the South Lawn toward the White House on Sunday, March 19, 2017. (Photo: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A group of House Demcrats are demanding an urgent hearing over the Trump White House's "dramatic decision" to repeatedly stonewall a top federal watchdog agency.

"We are writing to request that you hold an immediate hearing on the dramatic decision by the White House to obstruct investigations by our independent investigators at the Government Accountability Office (GAO)," the lawmakers wrote this week in a letter (pdf) to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The committee has direct jurisdiction over the GAO, which conducts audits that inform the work of federal lawmakers. Earlier this month, the GAO's general counsel sent a letter (pdf) to the White House expressing alarm that attorneys working for the White House and the National Security Council (NSC) won't respond to the watchdog's inquiries.

"Over the past year, GAO has requested information and meetings when preparing reports on topics clearly involving the White House interests and expertise," the GAO's letter states. Those reports were about "the role of the NSC in the coordination of conflict prevention, mitigation, and stabilization efforts abroad; Inspector General vacancies; and the cost of presidential travel and related security measures."

The GAO had requested a response from the White House general counsel by May 25, but as with its earlier report inquiries, the Trump administration refused to even respond.

Now, the Demcrats are calling on Gowdy to bring lawyers for the White House and the GAO, as well as the Comptroller General, to testify before the committee, pointing to concerns that the administration's apparent non-compliance policy could hinder congressional oversight.

"The committee must act swiftly to determine who instructed the White House staff to refuse to proivde information to GAO," the Democrats' letter states, "as well as to evaluate the justification for this decision and its potential to impair Congress from fulfilling its constitutional oversight responsibilities."

The lawmakers' letter was signed by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-M.D.), the committee's ranking Democrat, and 17 other members of Congress.

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