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Science Committee Dems to Trump: Stop Peddling Fake News, Appoint a Qualified Science Advisor

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Great work as always by my Congressman, Don Beyer (D-8th)!

Science Committee Dems to Trump: Stop Peddling Fake News, Appoint a Qualified Science Advisor

May 18, 2017 (Washington, DC) – Rep. Don Beyer, Vice-Ranking Member of the House Science Committee, today led Democratic Members of the Committee in urging President Trump to appoint a reliable Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). They also urged him to avoid inaccurate articles and pseudoscience. Their letter was written following a report that Trump reacted strongly to fake Time magazine articles which he believed to be real, which were shared with him by his Deputy National Security Advisor.

The Representatives wrote:

“We are concerned about the process by which you receive information… Disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration.

“…Until the OSTP is adequately staffed and the director position filled by a qualified, objective scientist who understands the difference between alternative news peddled on alt-right websites and legitimate well-vetted scientific facts, we fear that you will continue to be vulnerable to misinformation and fake news. Relying on factual technical and scientific data has helped make America the greatest nation in the world. We therefore urge you to quickly appoint a qualified, widely-respected candidate to direct OSTP.”

The letter was signed by House Science Committee members: Don Beyer, Suzanne Bonamici, Mark Takano, Bill Foster, Jerry McNerney, Zoe Lofgren, and Jacky Rosen.

Congress established the Office of Science and Technology Policy in 1976 to provide the White House with sound, informed advice on science and technology. The Office has been short-staffed and without a Director since the beginning of the Trump administration.

Full text of the letter follows, and a signed copy can be found here.

Dear President Trump:

We are concerned about the process by which you receive information. According to a story reported byPolitico on May 15, 2017, your Deputy National Security Advisor passed along printouts of two Timemagazine cover stories – one, a previously identified and debunked internet hoax purporting to be from the 1970s warning of a coming ice age, and the other, from 2008, a special report on global warming, with the intention of undermining concern about climate change.

Disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration. You previously made the false claim that President Obama ordered your phones to be “tapped” based on false reports which have subsequently been contradicted by senior U.S. intelligence officials. You also falsely stated that millions of votes were cast against you “illegally” after reading about subsequently-debunked “research” pushed by alt-right websites. This, by no means, is a comprehensive list of your activities peddling fake news.

Where scientific policy is concerned, the White House should make use of the latest, most broadly-supported science. You have a tool at your disposal in this regard, should you wish to make use of it, in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) which, under your administration, has been left largely unstaffed and without a director. If you appoint a qualified OSTP Director, you will have a reliable source of policy advice for matters related to science and technology, which forms the bedrock of our national security and economic power.

Until the OSTP is adequately staffed and the director position filled by a qualified, objective scientist who understands the difference between alternative news peddled on alt-right websites and legitimate well-vetted scientific facts, we fear that you will continue to be vulnerable to misinformation and fake news. Relying on factual technical and scientific data has helped make America the greatest nation in the world. We therefore urge you to quickly appoint a qualified, widely-respected candidate to direct OSTP. Furthermore, it’s critical that anyone you nominate represent the views of the broader scientific community, as was the case for both Presidents Bush and Obama.

Also see the following:

Democratic Committee Leaders Request Information on the Dismissal of Members of the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors 

Washington, D.C. – Democratic leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Science, Space & Technology Committee sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt today expressing concerns and raising questions about the recent dismissal of nine members of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors.

The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Science, Space, and Technology Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), both Committees’ Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Members Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Don Beyer (D-VA), and both Committees’ Environment Subcommittee Ranking Members Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).

The letter highlights fears, reported in the New York Times and the Washington Post, that the Board’s scientific credibility will be diluted by issue-specific industry advocates and partisan motivations.  The letter also asks Pruitt to ensure that the EPA follows proper federal law regarding advisory committees and conflicts of interest regulations when appointing new members to the Board.

“We have serious concerns about this action that has prematurely removed qualified experts from EPA’s Board and deprives EPA of critical scientific and technical expertise needed to support the Agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment,”wrote the six Democratic Committee leaders.

The EPA Board of Scientific Counselors was established in 1996 to provide expert advice on EPA’s research and development work, and operates consistent with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).  The Board comments on strategic research plans, laboratory management, and budget and staffing issues, and – pursuant to FACA – is required to select Board members that represent a balanced set of views, expertise, and other relevant factors.

“We are also seriously concerned that you now intend to fill these newly opened positions with members who will serve as advocates for specific policies rather than as unbiased experts,” the Members continued. “To maintain the scientific integrity of the Board’s work, we expect you to adhere to the requirements of FACA for transparency and balance in making new appointments to the Board. We further expect you will appoint new members as Special Government Employees who are bound by conflicts of interest regulations.”

As part of their inquiry into the dismissal of the nine Board members, the six committee leaders requested additional information, including:

  1.         Provide all communications, records, and analysis related to EPA’s determination not to renew the appointments of Board members whose first terms ended on April 27, 2017.
  1. Provide the Committees a copy of the outreach plan prepared by the EPA’s Designated Federal Officer (DFO) for the Board as well as the draft grid of potential nominees also prepared by the DFO.
  1. Explain what systems and processes EPA intends to implement in order to ensure that any new Board members are in compliance with all applicable ethics regulations and free of any conflicts of interest or appearances of being unable to provide impartial advice.

A copy of the letter is available here.