A whistleblower has accused top officials in the White House and State Department of attempting to oust civil servants who don't support President Trump, House Democrats said Thursday. The whistleblower said that Trump administration officials have coordinated with conservative activists, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, in hopes of "cleaning" the government of employees who are not sufficiently pro-Trump.
Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel, respectively the ranking members on the Government Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Thursday, naming several top Trump officials who allegedly targeted anti-Trump staffers, and asked Kelly to provide Democrats with documents relating to the employment of those staffers. The Democrats cited emails they received from a whistleblower; in a separate report, Politico verified the authenticity of the emails. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment on the allegations.
"We have obtained extremely disturbing new documents from a whistleblower indicating that high-level officials at the White House and State Department worked with a network of conservative activists to conduct a 'cleaning' of employees they believed were not sufficiently 'supportive' of President Trump's agenda," Cummings and Engel wrote. "They appear to have targeted these staffers despite being fully aware that they were career civil service employees and despite the career employees expressing willingness to support the policy priorities of the Trump Administration."
In one instance, several Trump officials allegedly engaged in a protracted discussion about the loyalties of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, an Iran expert and career state department employee.
In March 2017, a conservative website ran an article calling Nowrouzzadeh a "trusted Obama aide" who "has burrowed into the government under President Trump." Nowrouzzadeh responded by emailing Brian Hook, chief of the State Department’s policy planning staff and her boss, assuring him that she was devoted to carrying out the Trump administration's policies.
In a subsequent email chain, officials at the White House and State Department, including Hook, discussed Nowrouzzadeh with skepticism, according to Politico. White House Liason to the State Department Julia Haller wrote that Nowrouzzadeh "cried when the president won" and falsely claimed that she was "born in Iran." Brian Lacey, Hook's deputy, chimed in that Nowrouzzadeh had supported President Obama's policies on Iran "with enthusiasm."
Hook replied that "this initial info is helpful," and said he'd get more "intel" on Nowrouzzadeh. Haller noted that "it is easy to get a detail suspended," and the next month, Hook suspended Nowrouzzadeh from her detail three months before she was scheduled to be.
In other emails quoted by Politico, Lacey suggested a purge of "Obama/Clinton loyalists" who were appointed under Obama and are "not at all supportive of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda." Hook allegedly compiled a list of Obama appointees and emailed it to himself, labeling one of them a "turncoat."
According to Politico and House Democrats, conservative activists outside of government also participated in these conversations. David Wurmser, a former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, forwarded the article about Nowrouzzadeh to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and wrote that "a cleaning is in order." Gingrich then forwarded Wurmser's email to Margaret Peterlin, chief of staff to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Cummings and Engle have asked Kelly for copies of all communications regarding the proposed or actual removal, or reassignment, of State Department staffers since Trump was sworn in, specifically those that were based on "alleged personal political beliefs, prior service with previous Administrations, or work on prior Administrations' foreign policy priorities." The two Democrats are also asking for all documents relating to Hook, Haller, Lacey, and five other Trump officials, as well as all records involving the reassignment of Nowrouzzadeh.