Read time: 3 minutes

Trump Administration Orders Communications Blackout For EPA, HHS And More

Agency heads have been ordered not to communicate with Congress or the public.
Trump Administration Orders Communications Blackout For EPA, HHS And More

The march toward totalitarianism continues, this time in the form of orders from the White House to some government agencies instructing them not to communicate with Congress or the public on anything.

Emails sent to EPA staff since President Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday and reviewed by The Associated Press detailed specific prohibitions banning press releases, blog updates or posts to the agency's social media accounts.

On the EPA, via TampaBay.com:

The Trump administration has also ordered what it called a temporary suspension of all new business activities at the department, including issuing task orders or work assignments to EPA contractors. The orders were expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide.

Similar orders barring external communications have been issued by the Trump administration at other federal agencies in recent days, including the Agriculture and Interior departments.

Staffers in EPA's public affairs office are instructed to forward all inquiries from reporters to the Office of Administration and Resources Management.

"Incoming media requests will be carefully screened," one directive said. "Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press."

A review of EPA websites and social media accounts, which typically include numerous new posts each day, showed no new activity since Friday.

USDA scientists are also under communications lockdown:

The US Department of Agriculture has banned scientists and other employees in its main research division from publicly sharing everything from the summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets as it starts to adjust to life under the Trump administration, BuzzFeed News has learned.

According to an email sent Monday morning and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department told staff — including some 2,000 scientists — at the agency’s main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.

“Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents,” Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email shared with BuzzFeed News.

“This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,” she added.


↓ Story continues below ↓

HHS and NIH have apparently also received similar instructions:

Officials at sub-agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services, for example, have been told not to send “any correspondence to public officials” according to a memo shared with HuffPost. Instead, they have been asked to refer questions to agency leadership until the leadership has had time to meet with incoming White House staff about the new administration’s policies and objectives, according to a congressional official who was also informed of the communications freeze.

An official with the National Institutes of Health told HuffPost that an email had been sent to the directors of NIH institutes and centers providing guidance from HHS on how to handle new or pending regulation, policy or guidance.

“The HHS guidance instructs HHS Operating Divisions to hold on publishing new rules or guidance in the Federal Register or other public forums and discussing them with public officials until the Administration has had an opportunity to review them,” the official said.

It’s unclear how wide the freeze goes, however, as an official close to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that agency was unaware of any such freeze.

We, the taxpayers, pay for these agencies to function and inform us of what they're doing. There is no excuse whatsoever for them to be under a blackout. We're going to find out one way or the other. Information will either be leaked or it can be officially published. Which way is best for democracy?

More C&L Coverage

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.