The Democratic spokesman in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings (Maryland). (semisquare-x3)
The Democratic spokesman in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings (Maryland). (AP)

Washington - Democrats believe the Republican majority in Congress refuses to thoroughly investigate the internal debate that took place in the White House on how they responded to the emergency caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. 

"The Republican response was to insulate President Trump and his aides from scrutiny, wall off the White House from criticism, shut down key aspects of congressional oversight, and disregard the lessons learned after Hurricane Katrina," says a report released yesterday by the Democratic spokesman in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings (Maryland).

Although the report admits that the Republican leadership of the committee requested documents from the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Health, it states that the attempts to obtain evidence from the White House were blocked.

The report of the Democratic minority stresses that the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform obtained “fewer than 20,000 pages of documents from all sources over the entire year—far less than the 500,000 pages obtained by Chairman Davis, and even less than the 22,000 pages Chairman Davis obtained from the White House alone”.

After Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, the committee received 22,000 pages from the White House describing the mobilization to address that emergency.

The report describes the Democratic minority's requests for documents and information about decision-making in the White House during the most critical moments of the emergency caused by Hurricane Maria. During that period, President Trump seemed to be more attentive to the controversy over American football players kneeling during the US national anthem to protest against police brutality. 

Back then, Trump also starred in a public discussion with the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, while the official warned about the seriousness of the situation and the loss of lives.

A study by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health estimated the deaths between September 2017 and February 2018 in 2,975 as a result of Hurricane Maria, due to factors including the lack of power, medical and transportation services.

The critics of the Democratic report are particularly aimed at the chairman of the Committee, Republican Trey Gowdy (South Carolina), who " not only refused to request documents from the White House, but he blocked all Democratic attempts to obtain those documents”. 

Specifically, the report states that he prevented “Committee Members from being able to vote on a subpoena to require the White House to respond to a document request from Ranking Member Cummings".

Democrats contrasted the efforts of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform under the leadership of Gowdy, who is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, with those made during that of now former Republican Congressman Tom Davis (Virginia) after Katrina.

And they recalled that the Committee published a “comprehensive 569-page report criticizing the Bush White House, federal agencies, state governments, and private contractors for their multiple failures to learn the lessons of the past,” on the response to Katrina that caused more than 1,800 deaths, mainly in Louisiana.

The Democratic report argues that there was no interest in holding, among other things, an informative session with then White House Homeland Security Advisor, Tom Bossert, to learn about matters such as the delay in the appointment of a general commander and President Trump's opinions regarding the federal response, as was reflected in his Tweets.

Democrats released their report in the face of a hearing at Committee on Oversight on the federal response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria scheduled for yesterday.

The session was rescheduled.


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