U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell joined a dozen other senators Thursday in a letter decrying President Donald Trump’s recent directive to slap a gag order on all federal agencies.
Silencing federal workers and their attempts to communicate with the public and Congress, the senators wrote, runs counter to the open and honest government that citizens expect.
“The American people expect an open, transparent and honest government, and your actions are not only contrary to that expectation, they promote a long lasting culture of fear among federal employees and prevent them from following their mission to openly serve the American public,” wrote the Senators in the letter. “Given your commitment to the rule of law and peaceful transition of power, we respectfully ask that you immediately reverse course and ensure that the dedicated federal civil servants of this country receive the respect they deserve and are immediately made aware of their clear protections under the law.”
Recent media reports claim the Trump transition team has sent memos to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Transportation, Health and Human Services, and Interior to impose a gag order on career federal employees.
Thee memos told employees to stop releasing documents to the public, and also banned the release of photos and press releases. The memos reportedly also halted the use of social media by some federal agencies.
Senator Cantwell said she is particularly concerned with how the gag order may affect transparency and worker safety at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington state.
The EPA, along with the Department of Energy and the Washington State Department of Ecology, is part of the Tri-Party Agreement, which governs cleanup operations. EPA’s inability, per the new executive order, to communicate with the public and Hanford contractors could pose serious safety and environmental risks, limit scientific research and hurt or delay the cleanup efforts at the Hanford site.
Other signers include Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Carper (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY).