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Cummings Seeks Subpoena After Trump Administration Flouts Bipartisan Request, Withholds All Docs on Child Separation Policy

Sep 17, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 17, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter asking Chairman Trey Gowdy to allow the Committee to vote on a motion to subpoena the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS), and Health and Human Services (HHS) for documents they are withholding in response to a bipartisan request on the immigrant child separation policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on April 6, 2018.

“I requested these documents on a bipartisan basis with Rep. Mark Meadows, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations,” Cummings wrote to Gowdy.  “Even if you continue to block requests from Committee Democrats, surely you can support requests from your own Republican Subcommittee Chairman.”

On July 5, 2018, Cummings and Meadows sent a bipartisan request to Attorney General Sessions, DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen, and HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar requesting 11 categories of documents on the status of children separated from their parents by the Trump Administration.  They asked for basic information by July 19, 2018, in order to monitor and promote efforts to unify these families.

“If the Trump Administration is allowed to continue flouting bipartisan document requests from Congress—and if you continue blocking our efforts to obtain these documents—the integrity of our Committee will be severely undermined, and we will be unable to fulfill our Constitutional responsibility to conduct independent, credible oversight of the Executive Branch,” Cummings wrote.

Meadows and Cummings sent their letter after Gowdy refused multiple previous requests.  Gowdy declined to seek any documents from the agencies, to hold any hearings with Trump Administration officials, or to allow any meaningful investigation of the separation of hundreds of children from parents.

“In response to the bipartisan document request from me and Chairman Meadows, the Trump Administration refused to produce a single page from any of the 11 categories of documents and information we requested,” Cummings wrote.

  • DOJ refused to produce any of the documents and failed to even send a reply letter in response to their request. 
  • HHS refused to produce any of the documents, asserting in a letter on July 11, 2018, that its policy is “to not publish” information related to children in its custody—despite the fact that the Members did not ask the agency to publish any information.
  • DHS refused to produce any of the documents they requested, instead sending a response from Secretary Nielsen on July 24, 2018, claiming that the Department “has never had a blanket policy of separating families at the border,” contradicting statements by President Trump, Attorney General Sessions, and other senior officials.

Instead of producing the documents, the agencies briefed Committee Members and staff on July 18, 2018.

“This briefing raised even more questions about the refusal of the Trump Administration to heed warnings from its own officials,” Cummings wrote.

Specifically, Commander Jonathan White, the official overseeing this policy at HHS, reported that “there was not at that time a specialized plan” for reuniting children with their families when Sessions announced the new policy.

White also testified before the Senate on July 31, 2018, that he personally warned Trump Administration officials about the consequences of child separations, and that after raising these concerns inside the Trump Administration, “I was advised that there was no policy which would result in separation of children from family units.”

As of September 13, 2018, more than 400 children intentionally separated from their parents by the Trump Administration remain in U.S. government facilities as a direct result of the policy announced by Sessions.

Click here to read today’s letter.

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115th Congress