By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior Democratic lawmakers on Thursday called on the White House to lift orders barring government agency employees from communicating with the public and Congress, saying such restrictions may violate federal laws.
Congressmen Elijah Cummings of Maryland, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, sent a letter to White House counsel Donald McGahn asking for immediate action to address the administration's "gag orders on federal employees that prevent them from communicating with Congress.
“We urge you to immediately rescind all policies on employee communications that do not comply with the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and other federal statutes,” they wrote in the letter dated on Thursday.
Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services have seen directives from the newly minted leadership that limit how they communicate to the public, according to multiple sources.
At a news conference on Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the White House had not ordered such directives.
"I don't think it's a surprise we're going to review the policies, but I don't have any info at this time," Spicer added.
The letter from Cummings and Pallone asked U.S. President Donald Trump to issue a statement "making clear to all federal employees that they have the right to communicate with Congress and that he and his Administration will not silence or retaliate against whistleblowers.”
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)