House Democrats to Speaker Ryan: Is Secret Collaboration by House Staffers with Trump Acceptable?
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, following reports that Republican House Judiciary staffers secretly participated in drafting Donald Trump’s anti-refugee executive order, House Democrats wrote to Speaker Paul Ryan strongly urging him to clarify whether it is permissible for House staff to provide assistance to the White House in developing its policies. The letter also demands that Ryan provide explicit guidance regarding whether it is acceptable for House staff to sign non-disclosure agreements with the Administration. The full text of the letter is below.
“It is deeply troubling to learn of reports that Judiciary Committee staff not only played a significant role in drafting this harmful, ill-conceived Executive Order but also signed agreements barring them from discussing this work with their employing Member,” said Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35). “Such actions represent a direct attack on the independence of this institution. If the President wants congressional staff to compensate for his administration’s incompetence, he should hire them himself.
“As the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan has a responsibility to protect the integrity of this institution and preserve the balance of powers our country has always relied on. Handing over the reins to a President who has shown so little respect for our democratic process and for the views of anyone who disagrees with him would set a dangerous precedent.”
“It’s not surprising that the Trump Administration turned to the professional staff of the House Judiciary Committee for assistance – the White House lacks basic competence and expertise on a whole range of critical issues,” said Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ-07). “Instead, what’s frankly astonishing is that these staffers collaborated with Donald Trump without informing Chairman Goodlatte and agreed to sign non-disclosure agreements as a precondition to working with the White House. They betrayed not only their boss but also the institution we all serve.
“Responsibility for this incident goes straight to the top of the Republican Conference. Speaker Paul Ryan has set a clear example – when it comes to Donald Trump, House Republicans should offer assistance now and ask questions later. Facing a President intent on shredding our most basic democratic norms, now more than ever, we need a Congress that’s strong enough and independent enough to stand up to Donald Trump.”
Dear Speaker Ryan:
On Monday, January 30, 2017, Politico reported that staff members from the House Committee on the Judiciary had participated in the drafting of the January 27, 2017 executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”
As you are well aware, this highly controversial, impetuous, and poorly-implemented Executive Order has resulted in the detention of at least one Iraqi citizen who assisted the American military in Iraq, a five-year old boy from Iran, and dozens of other innocent individuals who pose no security threat to the United States; has generated confusion and panic for families across the globe; has met bipartisan opposition in Congress; has sparked massive protests across the country; has been partially stayed by an American judge; and has met strong resistance from the Departments of State and Justice. Top counter-terrorism experts agree that this order will be harmful to national security, largely because it will serve as a top talking point for ISIS and other terrorist organizations, and will significantly harm America’s reputation in the Muslim world.
In this context, we respectfully ask you to, in consultation with the House Committee on Ethics and the Committee on House Administration, provide written clarification and guidance for all House of Representatives Members and staff as to whether it is permissible for House Members or staff to assist in the drafting of executive orders, to provide assistance to the administration in any other fashion, or to enter into non-disclosure agreements with the administration.
While we recognize that the current administration lacks policy experience, it is nonetheless imperative to maintain a clear division between the executive branch and the legislative branch.
Thank you for considering this important request.
Norma J. Torres
Timothy J. Walz
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Elliot L. Engel