Archive for Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump administration orders broad federal communications clampdown; New EPA business prohibited

President Donald Trump speaks during a White House senior staff swearing in ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump speaks during a White House senior staff swearing in ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

January 24, 2017, 1:56 p.m. Updated January 24, 2017, 3:59 p.m.


— The Trump administration has instituted a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency and barred staff from awarding any new contracts or grants, part of a broader communications clampdown within the executive branch.

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

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. EPA contracts with outside vendors for a wide array of services, from engineering and research science to janitorial supplies.

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

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday he had no information on the blackout. He said aides were looking into the circumstances.

Doug Ericksen, the communications director for Trump's transition team at EPA, said he expects the communications ban to be lifted by the end of this week.

"We're just trying to get a handle on everything and make sure what goes out reflects the priorities of the new administration," Ericksen said.

Beyond what was stated in the internal email, Ericksen clarified that the freeze on EPA contracts and grants won't apply to pollution cleanup efforts or infrastructure construction activities.

Officials at state and local agencies that rely on EPA for funding said they were left in the dark, saying they had received no information from EPA about the freeze.

"We are actively seeking additional information so we can understand the impact of this action on our ability to administer critical programs," said Alan Matheson, executive director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

The executive director for the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Jeff Ruch, said the orders go beyond what has occurred in prior presidential transitions.

"We're watching the dark cloud of Mordor extend over federal service," Ruch said Tuesday, referring to the evil kingdom in the epic fantasy "The Lord of the Rings."

Ruch noted that key posts at EPA have not yet been filled with Republican appointees, including Trump's nominee for EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. That means there are not yet the new senior personnel in place to make key decisions.

Environmentalists said the orders were having a chilling effect on EPA staff, many of whom were suffering from low morale. Trump and Pruitt have both been frequent critics of the agency and have questioned the validity of climate science showing that the Earth is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame.

Liz Perera, climate policy director for the Sierra Club, said Trump's move to freeze all EPA communications and contracts should be "a major red flag for all Americans."

"EPA was created to ensure that all Americans can enjoy clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and have their health protected from environmental and climate threats," Perera said.

Some staff at the Agriculture Department also received orders not to release any documents to the public.

"This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds and social media content," read an email to staff at the agency's Agricultural Research Service, which was obtained by the AP.

ARS spokesman Christopher Bentley said the ban would not include scientific publications released through peer-reviewed professional journals.

"As the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency, ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America," Bentley said, according to a statement.

It was not immediately clear whether similar instructions were given to others within the department.

The AP reported over the weekend that staff at the Interior Department were temporarily ordered to stop making posts to its Twitter account. The prohibition came after the official account of the National Park Service, a bureau of the department, retweeted a pair of posts to its 315,000 followers that seemed to be a swipe at Trump on his initial day in office. The first was a photo that compared the crowd gathered on the National Mall for Trump with the much larger gathering that stood in the same spot eight years earlier for President Barack Obama's swearing-in.

Trump later falsely claimed that more than 1 million people attended his inauguration, which Spicer insisted was the most watched in history.


MerriAnnie Smith 1 year, 3 months ago

Compare Trump's methods to those of Hitler as he began to take over Germany.

Luckily, we have a Congress and a SCOTUS, however a hell of a lot of damage can be done before they realize their mistake in taking this man into their party.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 3 months ago

Bob, would you like to explain to us why he is doing this, and why you consider it a good thing? Why do conservatives hate transparency and free speech? Instead of rude comments, why not give us your reasons for supporting something so obviously fascist. We are waiting.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 3 months ago

WOW!!!!!!!! another contributor to this forum that is familiar with the creator of the Third Reich.

Thanks for getting on my bandwagon (not too many instruments there..........yet!

"Washington — The Trump administration has instituted a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency and barred staff from awarding any new contracts or grants, part of a broader communications clampdown within the executive branch"

Proof [positive that the non-elected fascist sex offender that ought to be in jail and on the Sex Offender Registry is going to do his best to create the Fourth Reich. His early attempts to suppress and provide his "alternative facts" is real and frightening proof of the true intentions of the non-president.

Get your flags, boys!! You are gonna need them a lot in the coming weeks and months as this American Fuehrer of the blooming Fourth Reich. plots our demise.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 3 months ago

Compare Trump's actions to Brownback. And we are doing so well here in Kansas. The sun is shining on our deficit and our declining schools and roads. And transparency? Only if someone forces it or leaks it.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 3 months ago

There is not much question that the new non-president is a damned liar. He has made many statements that are patently false and disproven. He continues to use his press secretary to spread lies and misinformation to the public.

You voted for Brownbackwards. You know now what we go with him!. Now we have the same in the mis-election of a depraved, dishonest, liar in the White House, the highest office in the land. The Republican Party has disintegrated into chaos and disrepair. It may never regain any useful purpose in my lifetime.

Rush Limbaugh is proud of you all!! (I do not listen to him, I just troll around his web site.)

Bob Summers 1 year, 3 months ago

The EPA was started by the hated Nixon trying to curry favor with irrational Liberals.

Eliminate the EPA after the Navajo are paid for EPA destroying their sacred Animas river.

EPA is nothing more than a frivolous Liberal plaything to harass the working folk.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 3 months ago

Bob...........we hate the Federal Government...........we know.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 3 months ago

chapter Two. We learn this morning that Trump is going to have a "major investigation" into why Hillary got so many votes............ Who "won"?????

How much is that going to cost the tax payer??? Is there ANY reason why this fool should not be impeached for stupidity and foolishness??. Let's talk about the "border wall" heck, let's not.

MerriAnnie Smith 1 year, 3 months ago

This major investigation you mention will not be by non-partisan disinterested people. It will be done by men and women who know their job is at stake if they don't support his lies.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 3 months ago

But they will still probably only find a handful of people who voted in two different states, and they will probably be elderly, and will probably be Republican. But that will turn into millions of people, just like his inflated attendance.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 3 months ago

Now, where are all the conservatives? I want them to explain to me why this is a good thing? Why do you think government should not be transparent? Obviously, there has to be some classified info, but everything? Why do you approve of this? Anyone want to answer this? Or do you have to wait until Breitbart or Rush tells you what you should think. Come on. You certainly have your own reasons for supporting shutting down all communications.

Harlan Hobbs 1 year, 3 months ago

It's a good thing, Dorothy, because it makes the "loony tunes" mad.

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