The media and Democrats are hot on the trail of policies that President Donald Trump may have implemented over federal agencies — the problem with their case are the suspect documents they are referencing.
One policy is reportedly the resurrection of “black site” detention facilities run by the CIA.
“New admin just wants to control the message, not have bureaucrats set the tone.”
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The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a draft executive order would begin the process of reopening such sites on foreign soil, where the CIA can aggressively interrogate subjects outside of U.S. jurisdiction.
The Post reported that “an executive order apparently drafted by the Trump administration calls for a policy review that could authorize the CIA to reopen ‘black site’ prisons overseas and potentially restart an interrogation program that was dismantled in 2009 after using methods widely condemned as torture.”
But there is a major problem with the four-page document. The document is not a White House document, said press secretary Sean Spicer, speaking Wednesday at the third White House briefing since Trump took office.
The problem of suspect documents being floated as federal policy is vexing Spicer, who may also still resent the issue that BuzzFeed and CNN made of the so-called “Trump Dossier,” a dubious intelligence product put together by political operatives that suggested President Trump was a Russian asset.
“I guess I’m having a hard time,” said Spicer, after getting a second question on the “black site” document at Wednesday’s press briefing.
“You’re asking me if a document — that’s not a White House document he’s seen,” said Spicer. “I don’t believe, to the best of my knowledge. This is the second day in a row we’re getting asked about documents that are floating around.”
Spicer then objected to such documents being attributed to the White House.
Kristen Welker, the MSNBC reporter grilling Spicer, said she didn’t attribute the documents to the White House. But she persisted in asking Spicer if Trump had seen the “draft.”
Spicer soon ran out of patience.
“I’m not going to answer hypotheticals about documents that are floating around,” said Spicer.
As she persisted, Spicer hit the switch.
“OK, Kristen, we’re going to end this right now,” said Spicer.
Spicer said it is the second time something was attributed to the new Trump White House that wasn’t actually issued from the White House.
On Sunday, Spicer noted that the White House made no announcement on the Women’s March in Washington. But at least one major reporter tweeted out an ostensible White House statement.
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The questionable documents are coming at a time when the Democrats and the media are hounding the Trump administration over every little alleged guidance to federal agencies about policy.
If that sounds odd — it’s because it is.
The president of the United States is the chief executive officer, having final authority over agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Parks Service.
Having been sworn in on Friday as the 45th president, Trump has such executive authority. But the media is very upset that the Trump administration is apparently cracking down on agencies behaving outside of his policy goals.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that the Trump administration is mandating “that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public.”
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The review also extends to content on the federal agency’s website. Former EPA staffers told the AP that the restrictions imposed under Trump “far exceed the practices of past administrations.”
Spicer explained why Trump’s administration (but not Trump himself) was moving to take control. Spicer said an unauthorized user used an old password to get into a National Parks Service social media account last weekend.
The tweets addressed climate change and seemed to urge action against carbon emissions.
Spicer justified agency heads taking full control, even of Twitter accounts, citing a December 2015 decision by the Government Accountability Office that the EPA violated prohibitions on the use of taxpayer dollars for “covert propaganda and unauthorized publicity, as well as for indirect or grassroots lobbying against legislation.”
According to U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works website, the EPA was trying to influence opinion on the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, a regulation which became a political issue in 2016.
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Florida Politico reporter Marc Caputo said Trump’s control of his own executive agencies sounded “increasingly Soviet,” which brought a quick rebuke from Brian Burgess, a former aide to Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
“New admin just wants to control the message, not have bureaucrats set the tone,” said Burgess.