DeVos bristles at House Oversight email investigation, Tlaib asks, ‘What is she hiding?’

By: - July 16, 2019 12:20 pm

Betsy DeVos | Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

The U.S. House Oversight Committee wants all of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ private emails, following findings by the U.S. Education Department inspector general.

Committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) speaks to members of the media after Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, testified before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote a letter to the Michigan native that the committee is expanding its investigation into the department’s compliance with the Federal Records Act because of “disturbing new revelations” from the inspector general that she used private email to conduct some official business. The report said DeVos also didn’t forward these emails to her official account, as required by law.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private email for government matters prompted congressional investigations and became a key issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, which she lost to now-President Donald Trump.

“New information has now come to light indicating that you and other Department officials violated the Department’s prohibition on using personal email accounts to conduct official business, violated the requirement in the Federal Records Act to forward these emails to your official account within 20 days, and violated the requirement in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to produce relevant records in response to public requests,” Cummings wrote DeVos.

He gave DeVos until July 29 to respond.

U.S. Education Press Secretary Liz Hill dismissed the committee’s latest move.

U.S. Rashida Tlaib at the Detroit NAACP dinner | Andrew Roth

“This is nothing more than political grandstanding,” Hill said in an email. “The IG has already done a thorough report on this issue. There is nothing to see here.”

However, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), a member of the U.S. House panel, took aim at DeVos, a longtime donor to both school choice and GOP causes in and outside of Michigan.

“Michiganders know all too well how devastating the DeVos family has been to public education. It is no surprise that now Betsy DeVos, as a Trump administration official, is now ignoring the rule of law and violating rules on the use of personal emails. What is she hiding? This falls in line with Secretary Devos ignoring the needs of students and borrowers time and time again. I am thankful that Chairman Cummings and the Committee is holding Secretary DeVos accountable for blatantly ignoring bipartisan attempts to get to the truth.”

The inspector general has long been a flashpoint between the President Trump administration and Democratic lawmakers.

As the Advance first reported, the White House in February ditched a plan to replace its acting inspector general with the agency’s deputy general counsel, Phil Rosenfelt. That sparked a backlash from lawmakers and advocacy groups concerned about the independence of the inspector general.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) also sent a letter to DeVos demanding answers after she made and quickly reversed a decision to replace the inspector general’s top investigator, in a move that he and other lawmakers said threatened the office’s independence.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ+ people, the state budget, the economy and more.