January 19, 2018

Duckworth: Did Trump Administration Try to Cover Up Chaotic Implementation of Trump’s First Unconstitutional Muslim Ban?


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) issued the following statement criticizing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for delaying the results of an investigation by an independent federal watchdog into the Trump Administration’s chaotic and unconstitutional implementation of its first Muslim ban – and for preventing the full release of the investigation’s findings. The investigation – which was conducted by the DHS Inspector General at the request of Senators Duckworth, Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) – found the Trump Administration violated at least two separate federal court orders while implementing the travel ban, likely deprived travelers of their constitutional rights and failed to provide any warning or basic guidance to the agency charged with carrying out the President’s executive order. DHS today followed through on its unprecedented threat to invoke the “deliberative process” privilege to redact portions of the report, having successfully denied the United States Senate an opportunity to review the IG’s findings before voting to confirm Kirstjen Nielsen to be DHS Secretary.

“We requested this independent, non-partisan investigation because the American people deserve to know how and why the Trump administration fell down on the job, violated multiple federal court orders and failed to provide even the most basic guidance or warning regarding the President’s discriminatory and unconstitutional Muslim Ban, causing chaos at airports across the country,” said Senator Duckworth. “It’s unfortunate that instead of leveling with the public, the Trump Administration spent months trying to cover up its gross mismanagement. The strength and integrity of our democracy depend upon a transparent government accountable to its people. The Trump Administration needs to release the full, un-redacted report.”

The investigation from the DHS Office of Inspector General resulted in an 87-page report that was delivered to the DHS on October 6, 2017 for a routine review. However, rather than following the normal procedures, DHS sat on the report with little explanation, forcing then-DHS Inspector General Roth to write to Senators Duckworth, Durbin and McCaskill in late November to express his concern that DHS was threatening to take the unprecedented step of invoking deliberative process privilege. Following Roth’s letter, Duckworth met with the then-Inspector General to discuss the report’s troubling findings, as well as the dangerous precedent that blocking the entire report’s release would set for government transparency and oversight.

“Secretary Nielsen’s decision to personally determine which portions of the report should be redacted raises serious conflict-of-interest concerns,” Duckworth added. “Given Secretary Nielsen’s central role in the Muslim ban’s implementation, it is inappropriate that she did not recuse herself and instead was able to choose which of her actions or emails to hide from Congressional oversight and the American people.”

After DHS continued to block the report’s release, Duckworth wrote to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) this week requesting they hold an oversight hearing on the transparency implications that would come from allowing a Federal agency to heavily redact its own oversight report. Duckworth also requested the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity (CIGIE) survey all federal inspector generals across government to determine how unprecedented the obstruction tactics employed by DHS are as well as whether they are spreading across the government.