November 30, 2017

Duckworth Warns Trump Administration Against Covering Up Report Documenting Illegal Implementation of First Muslim Ban


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - With the Trump Administration seemingly poised to cover up its illegal and chaotic implementation of the January Muslim Ban executive order, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) called on the Administration to release U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General's full report on his investigation into ban's implementation. Her call for the report's release comes just days after the Senator met with DHS Inspector General John Roth to discuss his findings that the Administration violated at least two federal court orders during its implementation process.

"Inspector General Roth's report finding that the Trump Administration violated multiple federal court orders is deeply troubling. The American people deserve to know exactly how and why the Administration fell down on the job, failing to provide even the most basic guidance or warning regarding the President's discriminatory and unconstitutional Muslim Ban," said Duckworth.

Following a request from Senators Duckworth, Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the Inspector General recently completed an 87-page report outlining the Administration's missteps, including illegally violating court orders, but the Administration has so far refused to release the complete report. The Senators recently learned that the Administration has instead chosen to begin an unprecedented "clearance review" process that could be used to cover up the report's damaging findings.

"The Trump Administration has for months refused to allow DHS to release the report in full, seemingly trying to cover up its illegal actions and prevent the Inspector General from doing its job of holding our nation's leaders accountable. That's not just shameful - it's downright dangerous. The strength and integrity of our democracy depend upon a transparent government accountable to its people. The Trump Administration needs to give the American people the transparency they deserve and release a full, un-redacted report," Duckworth continued.

The most recent official update from DHS Inspector General Roth is available here. Since his unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate in March 2014 to serve as DHS Inspector General, no DHS OIG report has been blocked from public release because of the common law "deliberative process" privilege that the Administration is apparently considering to prevent release of this full report. The report may include details of the failures of two specific individuals who the President has nominated to serve as high-level officials in his Administration: Kristjen Neilsen, nominee to be Secretary of Homeland Security, and Kevin McAleenan, nominee to be Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

As the Inspector General stated in his letter to Senator Duckworth: "I am particularly troubled by the Department's threat to invoke the deliberative process privilege, as this is the first time in my tenure as Inspector General that the Department has indicated that they may assert this privilege in connection with one of our reports or considered preventing the release of a report on that basis," and "Invoking the deliberative process privilege, in this report and in future reports, would significantly hamper my office's ability to keep 'Congress fully and currently informed about problems and deficiencies' of the Department, as required by the Inspector General Act."

If the Trump Administration follows through on its threat to invoke the "deliberative process" privilege to block or heavily redact the independent DHS OIG's final report, it could set a chilling government-wide precedent ripe for abuse by federal agencies seeking to hide embarrassing mismanagement, improper whistleblower retaliation and numerous other instances of waste, fraud and abuse. Covering up damaging portions of these reports in this manner would not only reduce government transparency and potentially violate the Inspector General Act of 1978, but it could prevent Congress-which often relies on these reports-from performing its constitutional oversight duties.

The independent federal watchdog at DHS also found that the Trump administration gave the leadership of CBP, the DHS entity primarily responsible for carrying out the executive order, virtually no warning and the executive order caught the agency by surprise. As a result, CBP was unable to issue definitive guidance on how to carry out the order, which caused widespread chaos and the indiscriminate detention of legal permanent U.S. residents and previously vetted travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries at O'Hare International Airport and airports across the country.

Senators Duckworth, Durbin and McCaskill's request for an investigation into the implementation of the President's discriminatory executive order is available here.