Two Democratic lawmakers asked President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team Thursday if a questionnaire sent to the Department of Energy asking for the identities of people working on climate change was an isolated incident.
Reps. Elijah Cummings and Frank Pallone sent the letter asking if the transition team made similar requests for information from other government agencies.
“Any effort to retaliate against, undermine, demote, or marginalize civil servants on the basis of their scientific analysis would be an abuse of authority,” they wrote, referring to documents obtained by The New York Times indicating Trump’s team was trying to suss out the identities of DOE employees working on climate-related issues.
The 74-point questionnaire appeared to request a list of agency researchers and their peer-reviewed publications, professional society members, and the websites with which they contribute.
“We are concerned that these efforts may be an attempt to apply an ideological ‘litmus test’ to career civil servants,” the congressmen added.
The agency is refusing to comply with the transition team’s requests.
The White House, meanwhile, defended the DOE’s decision to withhold the information.
“There were reports about what certainly could have been an attempt to target civil servants, career federal government employees,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during a Wednesday press conference.
“Their work transcends the term of any one president. That’s by design,” he added, warning that replacing wholesale all DOE staff during administration transference would set a bad precedent.
Trump’s transition team, for its part, now claims it never “authorized” the controversial questionnaire. Democrats and activists called the list a type of “political witch hunt.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown said his state would send its own “damn satellites” into orbit if the incoming Trump administration plans on shuttering NASA’s climate satellites.
Cummings believes the questionnaire, which consists mostly of mundane procedural queries, poses a threat to scientists across the country.
“I am sure there are a lot of career scientists and others who see this as a terrible message of fear and intimidation — ‘either ignore the science or we will come after you,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters.
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