Some states balk at records re­quest

Pruitt pushes for gov­ern­ment ef­fort that crit­ics say at­tempts to un­der­mine es­tab­lished sci­ence 10 and D.C. won’t com­ply at all; many will only turn over part of what is sought by panel

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Brady Den­nis and Juliet Eilperin By Adam Kealoha Causey and Holly Ramer

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is de­bat­ing whether to launch a gov­ern­men­twide ef­fort to ques­tion the sci­ence of cli­mate change, an ef­fort that crit­ics say is an at­tempt to un­der­mine the long-es­tab­lished con­sen­sus hu­man ac­tiv­ity is fu­el­ing the Earth’s ris­ing tem­per­a­tures.

The move, driven by En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt, has sparked a de­bate among top Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials over whether to pur­sue such a strat­egy.

A se­nior White House of­fi­cial, who asked for anonymity be­cause no fi­nal de­ci­sion has been made, said that while Pruitt has ex­pressed in­ter­est in the idea, “there are no for­mal plans within the ad­min­is­tra­tion to do any­thing about it at this time.”

Pruitt first pub­licly raised the idea of set­ting up a “red team-blue team” ef­fort to con­duct ex­er­cises to test the idea that hu­man ac­tiv­ity is the main driver of re­cent cli­mate change in an in­ter­view with Bre­it­bart

OK­LA­HOMA CITY» Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is up­set that all states aren’t fully co­op­er­at­ing with his vot­ing com­mis­sion’s re­quest for de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about ev­ery voter in the United States.

Some of the most pop­u­lous ones, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia and New York, are re­fus­ing to com­ply. But even some con­ser­va­tive states that voted for Trump, such as Texas, say they can pro­vide only par­tial re­sponses based on what is legally al­lowed un­der state law.

“Nu­mer­ous states are re­fus­ing to give in­for­ma­tion to the very dis­tin­guished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they try­ing to hide?” Trump said in a tweet Satur­day.

Given the mish­mash of in­for­ma­tion Trump’s com­mis­sion will re­ceive, it’s un­clear how use­ful it will be or what the com­mis­sion will do with it. Trump es­tab­lished the com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of voter fraud in the 2016 elec­tions, but Democrats have blasted it as a bi­ased panel that is merely look­ing for ways to sup­press the vote.

New Hamp­shire Sec­re­tary of State Bill Gard­ner, a Demo­crat who is a mem­ber of Trump’s Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity, de­fended the re­quest Fri­day. He said the com­mis­sion ex­pected that many states would only par­tially com­ply be­cause open records laws dif­fer from state to state.

“If only half the states agree, we’ll have to talk about that. I think, what­ever they do, we’ll work with that,” said Gard­ner, adding that the com­mis­sion will dis­cuss the sur­vey at its in early June.

“What the Amer­i­can peo­ple de­serve, I think, is a true, le­git­i­mate, peer-re­viewed, ob­jec­tive, trans­par­ent dis­cus­sion about CO2,” Pruitt said in an in­ter­view with Bre­it­bart’s Joel Pollack.

But of­fi­cials are dis­cussing whether the ini­tia­tive would stretch across nu­mer­ous fed­eral agen­cies that rely on such sci­ence, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, all of whom spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause no for­mal an­nounce­ment has been made.

En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry, who once de­scribed the sci­ence be­hind hu­man-caused cli­mate change as a “con­trived phony mess,” also is in­volved in the ef­fort, two of­fi­cials said.

The idea, ac­cord­ing to one se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, is “to get other fed­eral agen­cies in­volved in this ex­er­cise on the state of cli­mate sci­ence” to ex­am­ine “what we know, where there are holes, and what we ac­tu­ally don’t know.”

Other agen­cies could in­clude the Com­merce Depart­ment’s Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the White House’s Of­fice of July 19 meet­ing.

He said he has re­ceived calls from un­happy con­stituents who said they didn’t want Trump to see their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

“But this is not pri­vate, and a lot of peo­ple don’t know that,” he said.

It’s not just Democrats bristling at the re­quested in­for­ma­tion.

Mis­sis­sippi Sec­re­tary of State Del­bert Hose­mann, a Repub­li­can serv­ing his third term, said in a state­ment he had not re­ceived the com­mis­sion’s re­quest. If he does re­ceive it? “My re­ply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mex­ico, and Mis­sis­sippi is a great state to launch from,” he said. “Mis­sis­sippi res­i­dents should cel­e­brate In­de­pen­dence Day and our state’s right to Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Pol­icy and NASA, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial, all of which con­duct cli­mate re­search in some ca­pac­ity.

A plethora of sci­en­tific as­sess­ments over the years have con­cluded that hu­man ac­tiv­ity — such as the burn­ing of fos­sil fu­els — is driv­ing cli­mate change, and it poses grave risks both to the en­vi­ron­ment and to hu­man health. In its most re­cent re­port, the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change con­cluded that it is “ex­tremely likely” that, since the 1950s, hu­mans and their green­house gas emis­sions have been the “dom­i­nant cause” of the planet’s warm­ing trend.

But that con­clu­sion, shared by the vast ma­jor­ity of ex­perts in the United States and around the world, has done lit­tle to stop Pruitt, Perry and other ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials from rais­ing doubts.

The idea of a “red-team blueteam” ex­er­cise stems in part from a Wall Street Journal com­men­tary by New York Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Steven Koonin. E&E News on Fri­day re­ported that Pruitt in­tended to for­mal­ize the “red team, blue team” ef­fort to chal­lenge main­stream cli­mate pro­tect the pri­vacy of our cit­i­zens by con­duct­ing our own elec­toral pro­cesses.”

In a fed­eral court case after a con­tentious U.S. Se­nate pri­mary in Mis­sis­sippi in 2014, a group called True the Vote sued Mis­sis­sippi seek­ing sim­i­lar in­for­ma­tion about vot­ers. Hose­mann fought that re­quest and won.

No state elec­tion of­fi­cial planned to pro­vide the com­mis­sion with all of the in­for­ma­tion re­quested — even Kansas, where com­mis­sion vice chair­man Kris Kobach is sec­re­tary of state.

Of­fi­cials in 10 states and the District of Columbia said they would not com­ply at all with the re­quest. Those states are Cal­i­for­nia, Ken­tucky, Mas­sachusetts, Min­nesota, sci­ence. But should Perry and other agency lead­ers join the ef­fort, the move would em­bed the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach to cli­mate sci­ence across the gov­ern­ment in a very pub­lic way.

Kelly Levin, a se­nior as­so­ciate with the World Re­sources In­sti­tute’s ma­jor emerg­ing economies ob­jec­tive, wrote in a blog post last month that the kind of ad­ver­sar­ial process Pruitt is ad­vo­cat­ing is bet­ter suited for pol­icy de­bates than for sci­en­tific find­ings. Sci­en­tific ar­gu­ments, she wrote, are me­di­ated through a peer-re­view process in which ex­perts in the same field eval­u­ate one an­other’s work.

“Sci­en­tific un­der­stand­ing, un­like pro­pos­als for what to do about a given prob­lem, is well es­tab­lished through the sci­en­tific method,” wrote Levin, not­ing that 97 per­cent of peer-re­viewed pa­pers on cli­mate change sup­port the idea that hu­mans play a contributing fac­tor. “If skep­tics want their voices heard in sci­en­tific dis­course, they should try to get their find­ings pub­lished in the peer-re­viewed lit­er­a­ture. They would then be as­sessed on their mer­its through peer re­view.” Mis­sis­sippi, New Mex­ico, New York, South Dakota, Ten­nessee and Vir­ginia.

Ok­la­homa will pro­vide nearly all the com­mis­sion’s re­quest, save for one bit of in­for­ma­tion: So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers.

Colorado Sec­re­tary of State Wayne Wil­liams told The Den­ver Post Thurs­day that, un­der Colorado law, voter So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers won’t be pro­vided but the state would pro­vide any in­for­ma­tion al­ready avail­able to jour­nal­ists, par­ties and the pub­lic un­der state open record laws.

The let­ter from the pres­i­den­tial com­mis­sion gives sec­re­taries of state about two weeks to pro­vide the voter data and other in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing any ev­i­dence of fraud.

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