Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Is secrecy in government compatible with democracy?: In Trump’s Washington, public business increasingly handled behind closed doors

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The US is moving toward having a secret (and increasingly authoritarian) government. These trends are ominous, but the citizenry is not yet aroused enough to vote in any great numbers (David Leonhardt in his NY Times column today: “A mere 17 percent — 17 percent! — of Americans between 18 and 24 voted in 2014, compared with 59 percent of seniors.”), and Congress, particularly the GOP members of Congress, have no longer even pretend their job of oversight (Congress can subpoena administration officials and reports, but Congress doesn’t bother), so I expect things will continue to worsen. Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe report in the Washington Post:

The Senate bill to scale back the health-care law known as Obamacare is being written in secret by a single senator, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and a clutch of his senior aides.

Officials at numerous agencies of the Trump administration have stonewalled friendly Republicans in Congress — not to mention Democrats — by declining to share internal documents on sensitive matters or refusing to answer questions.

President Trump, meanwhile, is still forbidding the release of his tax returns, his aides have stopped releasing logs of visitors to the White House and his media aides have started banning cameras at otherwise routine news briefings, as happened Monday.

Trump even refuses to acknowledge to the public that he plays golf during his frequent weekend visits to his private golf courses.

More and more in the Trump era, business in Washington is happening behind closed doors. The federal government’s leaders are hiding from public scrutiny — and their penchant for secrecy represents a stark departure from the campaign promises of Trump and his fellow Republicans to usher in newfound transparency.

“I was very frustrated the Obama administration held things so close to the vest . . . but I quite frankly haven’t seen any change with the Trump administration. In some ways I find it worse,” said outgoing Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chaired the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform before announcing his retirement this spring.

In an interview Monday, Chaffetz ticked through several controversies, including the transfer of whistleblowers at the Transportation Security Administration, about which he said Trump administration officials have declined to provide key documents to his committee.

“I see a bureaucracy that doesn’t want documents and the truth out the door . . . and just flipping the middle finger at Congress,” Chaffetz said.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats are furious with federal agencies and White House offices that have not answered their requests for information on a wide range of subjects — from the role of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to specific policy changes being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and other agencies.

By early June, House and Senate Democratic aides had compiled lists of more than 400 written requests that they said had been ignored by the White House or federal agencies. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 10:16 am

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