House Oversight chairman seeks copies of gag orders on White House staff — and threatens to withhold salaries of officials who enforce them
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings is again seeking information on nondisclosure agreements that have been imposed on White House staff under President Donald Trump. The Maryland Democrat previously made this request in 2018.
According to a press release published on the House Oversight Committee’s website, Cummings wrote a letter to Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on May 14 stating that he is trying to determine whether or not nondisclosure agreements for White House staff are reasonable.
“I made my request in 2018 because these actions raise serious questions about whether the White House is complying with the Whistleblower Protection Act, which requires nondisclosure agreements to include specific language highlighting the rights of federal whistleblowers to make protected disclosures to Congress,” Cummings told Mulvaney. “Gag orders without this required language could chill employees from reporting violations of law, waste, fraud and abuse. As a result, the salaries of officials who enforce such illegal nondisclosure agreements may be withheld, according to federal law.”
Cummings, along with Rep. Jerrold Nadler, wrote to then-White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on March 20, 2018 following a Washington Post report saying that White House staffers had been asked to sign nondisclosure agreements that potentially subjected them to stiff financial penalties for violations. According to the Post, some White House employees “balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office, ultimately complied.”
The White House, according to the House Oversight Committee’s May 14 press release, never responded to that March 2018 request for information. At the time, Republicans still had a majority in the House of Representatives. But after the Democrats retook the House in the November 2018 midterms, Cummings was chosen as the new House Oversight Committee chairman.
In his May 14 letter to Mulvaney, Cummings also wrote, “As Chairman, I am now renewing this investigation—which is at the core of the Oversight Committee’s legislative and oversight jurisdiction—and I hope you will comply fully and voluntarily.”