WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. House committee has called on the White House to turn over documents related to the Trump administration’s handling of hurricanes in 2017 that devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, accusing it of stonewalling.
In a letter released on Tuesday, the House Oversight and Reform panel said the White House had repeatedly refused to produce any documents about Hurricanes Irma and Maria to lawmakers, who are investigating preparation and relief efforts for the storms, which killed thousands of people.
“It is unacceptable for the White House to completely ignore valid requests from this Committee … especially when they relate to the death of thousands of American citizens,” the panel’s Democratic chairman, Elijah Cummings, wrote on July 1.
Nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. Irma also devastated other parts of the Caribbean and Florida.
The investigation is one of several by the Democratically-controlled House that U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, and his administration are fighting.
Democrats, who took control of the chamber after the 2018 congressional election, are also probing Russian political interference, as well as the administration’s handling of security clearances, personal email use by top White House aides, and Trump’s finances, among other issues.
Trump has vowed not to cooperate with any congressional oversight probes. Representatives for the White House could not be immediately reached for comment on Congress’ latest request.
Cummings said the White House has “completely disregarded” its requests on the hurricane probe, which is examining “the failure to lead a coordinated response,” including a lack of food and fuel contracts ahead of the storm.
The committee “will have no choice but to seek compulsory process” for the administration’s records and is considering additional legislative action to address emergency planning process, Cummings’ letter said.
Such oversight, particularly following disasters, is commonplace for U.S. lawmakers, Cummings added, noting that former Republican president George W. Bush’s administration cooperated in a similar oversight probe, producing documents on its response to Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans and other parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005.