On Friday, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) sent a letter to the Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Commerce regarding her refusal to share critical documents related to the Committee’s ongoing investigation into allegations of misconduct by her.
The Committee began the investigation of IG Peggy Gustafson in April. On June 6, Lucas and Lofgren sent IG Gustafson a letter requesting documents related to this investigation and gave her a deadline of June 20 to respond. Nearly a month later, the Committee has yet to receive key documents as the Office of the Inspector General comes to a decision regarding the assertion of privilege over these documents.
“Your office failed to produce all of the relevant documents and communications, including certain documents that are being withheld pending your decision to assert privilege[s],” Lucas and Lofgren wrote, noting that Congress does not recognize common law privileges regarding document requests from federal agencies. “Additionally, the Committee was disturbed to learn that you intentionally disclosed the identity of the whistleblower whose allegations against you and others this Committee is investigating.”
After IG Gustafson shared the document request sent by the Committee on June 7 and disclosed the identity of the whistleblower, the Committee requested that the IG immediately share the circumstances and extent of this disclosure.
“Due to the severity of the allegations and simplicity of the request, the letter required a response within five days,” Lucas and Lofgren wrote today. “However, the Committee’s letter went unanswered for several weeks, resulting in the Committee having to send a second letter on July 7, 2023, demanding a response.”
When IG Gustafson replied, she admitted to sharing the Committee’s unredacted letter containing the whistleblower’s identity with at least six individuals, some of whom shared the letter themselves.
“The continued and constant delays in providing responses to the Committee’s requests, the absurd claim that you are considering invoking an unspecified privilege, and the intentional disclosure of the whistleblower’s identity have caused this Committee to question your willingness to cooperate with this investigation,” Lucas and Lofgren wrote.
In this letter, Lucas and Lofgren demanded immediate cooperation and answers about the IG’s intent to assert privilege and measures taken in response to the whistleblower disclosure.
A full timeline of the Committee’s investigation follows:
April 5, 2023 – Letter notifying IG Gustafson that the Committee is investigating allegations of whistleblower retaliation and other misconduct.
June 6, 2023 – Letter requesting documents related to relevant personnel decisions.
June 15, 2023 – Letter demanding answers after evidence showed that the IG compromised whistleblower anonymity by sharing the June 6 letter.
July 7, 2023 – Follow up letter on whistleblower disclosure as June 15 letter goes unanswered.
July 28, 2023 – Letter requesting withheld documents and further information about whistleblower disclosure.