Dems concerned Trump trying to 'target' Energy Dept. employees

Dems concerned Trump trying to 'target' Energy Dept. employees
© Getty Images

Top Democrats on Capitol Hill are raising concerns about the Trump transition team's push to identify Department of Energy (DOE) employees who have worked on climate change issues.

In a Wednesday letter to Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceHaley hits the stump in South Carolina Mitch McConnell's great Trumpian miscalculation Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official MORE, top Democrats on the House Oversight and Energy committees called the inquiry "troubling," saying it could pose an “ideological 'litmus test' to career civil servants.”

“We are concerned that these efforts to single out particular Department employees involved in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be an attempt to target DOE employees whose scientific views on climate change differ from those of the incoming Trump administration,” Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone (N.J.) and Elijah Cummings (Md.) wrote.

The letter comes after Trump’s tradition team asked the DOE for a list of employees who have worked on climate change issues during the Obama administration, including the Paris climate deal and carbon emissions accounting. 

Democrats want a copy of the letter the transition team sent to the department seeking names of employees who have worked on climate change as well as other communications between Trump officials and federal agencies related to work employees might have done under President Obama. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Energy officials said Tuesday they would not comply with that request, saying in a statement, “We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department.”

Trump’s team backed away from the inquiry on Wednesday. 

"The questionnaire was not authorized or part of our standard protocol. The person who sent it has been properly counseled," a Trump transition official told CNN.

Democrats fear the effort will endanger DOE employees whose work on climate change may go against the beliefs of Trump, who has called global warming a hoax created by China.

“These unprecedented questions suggest the incoming administration may be preparing to take arbitrary action against civil servants and government contractors simply because they worked, at the request of the Obama administration, on issues pertaining to climate change,” Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellReal relief from high gas prices GOP resistance to Biden FCC nominee could endanger board's Democratic majority Scott says he will block nominees until Biden officials testify on supply chain crisis MORE (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wrote in a Tuesday letter to Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Moniz: Texas blackouts show need to protect infrastructure against climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Back to the future on immigration, Afghanistan, Iran MORE

“The potential ramifications are chilling.”

The White House supported the Energy Department’s decision on Wednesday. 

“Our principle — and this is a principle that presidents in both parties have long abided by — is that we should observe the protections that are in place that ensure that career civil servants are evaluated based on merit and not on politics,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. 

—This post was updated at 12:24 p.m.