January 31, 2017
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) is leading 70 Democratic members of Congress to get answers on how President Trump’s White House drafted and evaluated the Executive Order that suspended refugee admissions and restricted the flow of immigrants from Muslim nations. The chaotic implementation of the order over the weekend led to the detention of hundreds of travelers at U.S. airports and five federal courts issuing stays on portions of the order. Rep. Peters and his colleagues are requesting that Gene Dodaro, Comptroller of the United States, issue a report from the Government Accountability Office detailing what input was solicited from federal agencies before the order was issued, what guidance was offered to the Department of Homeland Security about how the order should be enforced, and what legal analysis was performed by the Office of Legal Counsel or any agency General Counsels before the order was signed by the President.
The report will also include correspondence between the White House and the relevant federal agencies, providing a comprehensive record of the White House process for crafting the order that could be used as evidence as it is challenged in Federal Court.
“The fallout from President Trump’s discriminatory Executive Order raises serious concerns about how it was crafted and why it was so recklessly implemented,” said Rep. Scott Peters. “Executive Orders that immediately affect millions of families and the economic and security interests of the United States should be vetted by agency experts and counsel, not White House political staff. If the true intent of President Trump’s Executive Order was to make our nation more secure, his own national security officials would have known how to enforce the order before it was signed.”
Rep. Peters continued, “President Trump didn’t just slam the door on families fleeing violence and oppression, he did so without any understanding of how it would work or the damage that it would do. Americans want answers, and we’re going to get them.”
Signatories to the letter were as follows: Rep. John Conyers Jr. (MI-13); Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43); Rep. Robert C. Scott (VA-03); Rep. Linda Sanchez (CA-38); Rep. John A. Yarmuth (KY-03); Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-06); Rep. Timothy J. Walz (MN-01); Rep. Nydia Velazquez (NY-07); Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27); Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12); Rep. Gerry E. Connolly (VA-11); Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05); Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01); Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-03); Rep Robert A. Brady (PA-1); Rep. Danny K. Davis (IL-7); Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-5); Rep. Brian Higgins (NY-26); Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-6); Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-9); Rep. Don Beyer (VA-8); Rep. Ted W. Lieu (CA-33); Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1); Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL); Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41); Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8); Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51); Rep. John K. Delaney (MD-6); Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-9); Rep. Andre Carson (IN-7); Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12); Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53); Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2); Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14); Rep. Thomas Suozzi (NY-03); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9); Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-3); Rep. Darren Soto (FL-9); Rep. Brad Schneider (IL-10); Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-5); Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3 40); Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-1); Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-2); Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12); Rep. Grace Napolitano (CA-32); Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20); Rep. Nanette Barragan (CA-44); Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-06); Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10); Rep. Rick Nolan (MN-08); Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY-04); Rep. Ron Kind (WI-03); Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13); Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03); Rep. Mike Doyle (PA-14); Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries (NY-08); Rep. Paul D. Tonko (NY-20); Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15); Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver II (MO-05); Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20); Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05); Rep. Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-07); Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16); Rep. Niki Tsongas (MA-03); Rep. William R. Keating (MA-09); Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05); Rep. Marc A. Veasey (TX-33); Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11); Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ-01); Rep. José E. Serrano (NY-15).
The letter can be read in full HERE or below:
Dear Mr. Dodaro,
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” This order banned entry to the US for individuals from seven Muslim countries, while preserving an exception for “religious minorities.” Initially, the order was determined even to bar Green Card holders returning home to their country of permanent residence. We are deeply disturbed that this order may represent unconstitutional discrimination based on religion and national origin, and fails to distinguish between the millions of innocent and peaceful travelers and the small but determined numbers of suspected terrorists who threaten our national security. The order provides no exception for those who risked their lives to assist US military and intelligence personnel in our efforts to fight terrorism. Moreover, the order will undoubtedly be used as a rallying cry for our enemies and will undermine our efforts to defeat terrorism abroad.
The rushed nature of these orders raises serious questions about the White House’s intentions in drafting and signing these orders. Further, the resulting chaos and confusion concerning who the order applied to led to the detention of an unknown number of travelers and, ultimately, orders issued by five federal judges granting immediate stays of portions of the Executive Order.
There are many important questions to be answered regarding the Order’s intent, its constitutionality, and its wisdom. While Federal courts work to answer these questions, we believe that it is important to establish a factual record for the genesis of this Executive Order. For that reason, we request that you immediately review and report back to Congress on the circumstances surrounding and process through which the Executive Order was drafted, evaluated, and signed. Your review should be comprehensive, but should include, in particular, the following:
- What input, if any, was solicited from Federal agencies—including the Department of Justice—when Executive Order entitled: “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” was being drafted?
- How much time were Federal agencies given to review the Executive Order before it was signed?
- What legal analysis of the Executive Order was provided to the White House, by either the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, or any other agency General Counsels prior to its signing by the President.
- To what extent was the Executive Order reviewed for its consistency with current law and for its practical implementability?
- How does the average amount of time that agencies were given to review the Executive Order compare with the average amount of time taken for review by the previous two Administrations?
- What, if any, guidance was offered to the Department of Homeland Security with respect to implementing the Executive Order?
Additionally, the report should include all relevant communications between the White House and applicable agencies. We request the results of your analysis be provided in unclassified form.
Scott H. Peters
Member, U.S. House of Representatives (CA-52)