The Slatest

White House Reportedly Blocked Written Testimony of Official on Climate Change

A student holds a poster depicting a polar bear on a small ice sheet as she takes part in a "Fridays for Future" protest on May 24, 2019 in Budapest, Hungary.
A student holds a poster depicting a polar bear on a small ice sheet as she takes part in a “Fridays for Future” protest on May 24, 2019 in Budapest, Hungary.
ATTILA KISBENEDEK/Getty Images

The White House blocked a senior intelligence analyst at the State Department from issuing written testimony on climate science to a congressional committee. The testimony, which warned human-caused climate change is “possibly catastrophic” became the subject of controversy after officials from the State Department refused to delete references to scientific findings regarding climate change. The White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, and National Security Council all raised objections to parts of the testimony, saying the citing of climate science did not match the administration’s official stance on climate change, according to the Washington Post.

Rod Schoonover, who works in the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues, was ultimately allowed to give his testimony before a House Intelligence Committee hearing but he was barred from submitting written testimony. Even his oral testimony was in doubt for a while though, according to the New York Times, which reviewed internal emails demonstrating just how opposed officials were to him presenting scientific findings. “The testimony still has serious concerns with internal components and focuses heavily on the science,” Daniel Q. Greenwood, deputy assistant to the president in the White House office of legislative affairs, wrote in an email. “Because it doesn’t reflect the coordinated IC position, or the administration’s position, there is no way this can be cleared ahead of the hearing,” he wrote, using IC to refer to the intelligence community.

Experts said that while reviewing testimony is common, this effort to delete significant portions of the document seemed to be a bit extreme. “I have never heard of basic facts being deleted from or blocked from testimony,” Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said. That is particularly the case considering that members of the administration were objecting to citations of work conducted by federal agencies, including NASA.

The National Security Council objected to almost every page of Schoonover’s prepared testimony, claiming it contained “lots of climate alarm propaganda.” The White House Office of Legislative Affairs proposed cutting five pages of the scientific foundations for the rest of the testimony. Among the controversial statements? Factual claims such as, “The Earth’s climate is unequivocally undergoing a long-term warming trend as established by decades of scientific measurements from multiple, independent lines of evidence.”

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump said that he believed climate change “goes both ways,” noting he didn’t regret his decision to pull out of the Paris accord. “Don’t forget, it used to be called global warming, that wasn’t working, then it was called climate change, now it’s actually called extreme weather because with extreme weather you can’t miss,” the president said.