President Trump’s Attack on NOAA’s Independence Followed the Removal of Acting Administrator With a Reputation for Scientific Integrity


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Democracy Forward filed suit against the Trump administration for refusing to release documents regarding efforts to politicize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The suit was filed after reports that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire NOAA officials if they did not support President Trump’s false claims about Hurricane Dorian. Earlier this year, Sec. Ross abruptly removed NOAA’s acting administrator with a reputation for refusing to subject NOAA’s climate research to political interference.

“The Trump administration’s attacks on scientists speaking the truth are dangerous.  We’re suing to expose improper attempts to politicize NOAA because the public needs to be able to count on science agencies to do their jobs without political interference,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. 

Democracy Forward filed a Freedom of Information Act request in May following the sudden departure of RDML Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., USN-Ret. as acting NOAA administrator. Prior to his removal, Dr. Gallaudet said at a scientific conference that President Trump had not received any briefings from senior NOAA officials on climate change. One month later, Sec. Ross ordered Gallaudet’s removal. The FOIA request seeks, among other things, communications between top NOAA political and communications personnel surrounding the departure of Gallaudet, which may also shed light on the nature of Sec. Ross’s directives to the agency.

The case was filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.


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Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.