Administration put de facto gag order on EPA and agriculture department staff, following similar guidance for USDA and Department of Transportation, reports say
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture have been placed under de facto gag orders by the Trump administration, according to documents obtained by news organizations.
The president has banned EPA employees from “providing updates on social media or to reporters”, according to interagency emails first obtained by the Associated Press, and barred them from awarding new contracts or grants as well. Trump is reportedly planning massive cuts and rollbacks for the agency.
This follows similar guidance to USDA employees, who were instructed in an internal memo obtained by BuzzFeed not to release “any public-facing documents” including “news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content” until further notice. Specifically the request was made to employees of the Agricultural Research Service, the USDA’s primary research wing, which is heavily involved in research regarding climate change.
In a statement Tuesday, the USDA called the email sent to staff “flawed” and said the proposed policy would be replaced. “This internal email was released without departmental direction, and prior to departmental guidance being issued,” the statement read. “ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public.”
The two blackouts reported on Tuesday bring to at least five the number of federal agencies which have been ordered silent by Trump in as many days. In his briefing on Tuesday, Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said he needed to look further into the matter before making any comment.
Over the weekend, the Department of the Interior’s social media privileges were briefly suspended by the president after the National Park Service published a picture comparing Trump’s inauguration crowd to that of Barack Obama in 2009.
The tweet has since been deleted, and the NPS Twitter account has apologized for tweeting it.
“They had inappropriately violated their own social media policies,” Spicer told reporters on Tuesday. “There was guidance that was put out to the department to act in compliance with the rules that were set forth.”
Around the time of Spicer’s briefing, the social media account for the Badlands National Park seemed to defy whatever guidance had been given them by the Trump administration. The Badlands account started tweeting facts about the perils of global warming, noting for instance that there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere “than at any time in the last 650,000 years”. No one replied to requests for interviews at the South Dakota branch of the NPS.
As of approximately 5.30pm on Tuesday, their tweet thread had apparently been deleted.
Badlands Nat’l Park
Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate
Then, according to Politico, Department of Transportation employees were instructed on Monday “not to publish news releases or engage on Dot’s social media accounts”. This was not described as an order, but a “recommendation”.
Huffington Post also reported that officials at sub-agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services have been told not to send “any correspondence to public officials”.
Social media, and specifically Twitter, was integral to Trump’s campaign for the presidency. Since his inauguration, he has tweeted almost 40 times, from his two accounts.
The Department of Defense tweeted on Monday: “Social media postings sometimes provide an important window into a person’s #mentalhealth”, which some pundits considered a reference to Trump’s occasional early morning Twitter rants.