By Rachael Bade and Heather Caygle
January 31, 2017
Senior House Democrats on Tuesday blasted Republican staffers on the House Judiciary Committee for helping President Donald Trump write his executive order travel ban, and they raised questions about whether the separation of powers had been infringed upon.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said it was “unacceptable” that a small group of GOP staffers quietly helped the Trump administration write the executive order barring visitors from seven majority-Muslim nations.
“We are an independent [body]; we’re not an arm of the administration,” he said. “And hopefully Speaker [Paul] Ryan and Senate [Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell will not simply be an arm of the administration, an irresponsible, dangerous administration to boot,” Hoyer told reporters during a pen-and-pad.
The news “ought to be very concerning to every member of the Congress of the United States, Republican or Democrat, that you’ve got staff members doing something for the administration without telling their principals,” Hoyer continued.
POLITICO reported Monday night that some House Judiciary Republican staffers had helped Trump officials craft the travel ban, but they did not tell their boss or GOP leadership about their work on the executive order. Sources said they signed non-disclosure agreements with the Trump team, so while Rep. Bob Goodlatte approved their work for the transition, his office said he was not “consulted” on their work on the executive order.
Goodlatte told Republicans in a private meeting Tuesday that his staff stopped giving immigration policy advice to the administration the day of Trump’s inauguration and didn’t have any hand in the executive order rollout.
That’s not quelling criticism from the left, however. Judiciary Committee Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell echoed Hoyer’s frustrations, saying he’s “very concerned” — particularly about any confidentiality agreements the staffers made with Trump officials.
“I'm very concerned that Judiciary Committee Republicans may have worked to write President Trump's illegal Muslim Ban and agreed to conceal their role through a non disclosure agreement,” the California Democrat said. “Congress is supposed to be a transparent check on the President. Not a shadowy accomplice to un-American policy.”
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