Trump officials could start losing their salaries for defying Congress


Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings is weighing withholding the salaries of federal officials who prevent Congress from doing its job.

Trump administration officials who prohibit or prevent federal employees from speaking to Congress could pay a hefty price.

On Tuesday, Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings sent a letter to the Department of Interior (DOI) demanding that several officials provide testimony to his committee. And it wasn't the first time.

In the letter, which was addressed to Cole Rojewski, DOI's director of congressional and legislative affairs, Cummings points to a specific provision in the law which states that anyone who tries to stop officials from testifying to Congress could lose their pay.

"Please be advised that any official at the Department who 'prohibits or prevents' or 'attempts or threatens to prohibit or prevent' any officer or employer of the Federal Government from speaking with the Committee could have his or her salary withheld pursuant to section 713 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act," Cummings wrote.

From mid-March to mid-April, the House Oversight Committee made numerous requests for four officials to give transcribed interviews before the committee, as well as hand over relevant documents. Cummings is looking into unethical behavior at the department, including possible misconduct by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

At every step of the way, DOI officials refused to cooperate with Cummings' request.

The DOI is following a Trump administration pattern of obstruction. Just in the past week, Trump demanded that his former White House counsel, Don McGahn, refuse to testify before Congress. And Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin refused to follow the law and hand of Trump's tax returns to the Ways and Means Committee.

Trump told the Washington Post that he sees "no reason" for any current or former White House staffers to cooperate with Congress, and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, agrees with the strategy to "fight everything."

Congress has had enough. Some members have even suggested jail time for Trump aides who refuse to cooperate with legal congressional demands.

And Cummings is taking that fight to the bank accounts of Trump officials.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.