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Cummings Releases Staff Report on GOP Failure to Conduct Credible Oversight of Trump Administration’s Hurricane Response

Sep 6, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 6, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a new Democratic staff report entitled, A FAILURE OF OVERSIGHT:  How Republicans Blocked a Credible Investigation of the Trump Administration’s Response to the 2017 Hurricanes.  As the staff report explains:

“The hurricanes that struck Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands last fall were one of the most devastating and deadly natural disasters in United States history.  In 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed an estimated 1,100 people.  In 2017, the hurricanes that struck Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2,975 people—more than the number of people killed in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.”

“On October 3, 2017, just weeks after the hurricanes struck, President Donald Trump traveled to Puerto Rico and repeatedly touted his Administration’s response as ‘unbelievable,’ ‘amazing,’ and ‘incredible.’  As evidence for his claims, he cited the low number of deaths initially reported compared to the number of people killed by Hurricane Katrina:

Every death is a horror.  But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with, really, a storm that was just totally overpowering—nobody has ever seen anything like this.  What is your death count, as of this moment—17? … 16 people versus in the thousands.  You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together.  Sixteen versus literally thousands of people.

“He continued in the days that followed, tweeting on October 8, 2017:  ‘Nobody could have done what I’ve done for #PuertoRico with so little appreciation.  So much work!’  When asked a week later to rate his Administration’s response, he answered:  ‘I’d say it was a 10.’

“Even when reports by experts made clear that the actual death toll in Puerto Rico far exceeded the number of Americans killed after Hurricane Katrina, President Trump continued his claims of success, stating as recently as last week:  ‘I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico.’

“Unfortunately, over the past year, Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy and other House Republicans failed to conduct a credible, fact-based investigation of what went wrong and who was responsible.  Instead, the Republican response was to insulate President Trump and his aides from scrutiny, wall off the White House from criticism, shut down key aspects of congressional oversight, and disregard the lessons learned after Hurricane Katrina. 

“The decisions made by Chairman Gowdy during this investigation—and supported by other Republican Members—prevented the Committee from fulfilling its Constitutional responsibility to conduct independent oversight of President Trump’s claims and his Administration’s actions.  They also deprived the American people of a credible examination of the federal government’s response to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated in the future.”

In releasing the staff report today, Ranking Member Cummings stated:

“More than a decade after Hurricane Katrina, the Oversight’s Committee’s investigation of the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands not only ignored these lessons from the past, but added a new failure of its own—a failure of oversight.  Unfortunately, this investigation is just one example—one small illustration—of how Republicans have blocked credible oversight ever since Donald Trump became President.”

Click here to read today’s staff report. 

115th Congress