Energy Department Won't Disclose Names of Employees Who Worked on Climate Change to Trump Team

Trump speaks to supporters during a rally, in Grand Rapids, Mich., Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Photo via AP
Trump speaks to supporters during a rally, in Grand Rapids, Mich., Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. Photo via AP

The Energy Department has rejected a request from Donald Trump’s transition teams to provide the names of all agency employees and contractors who worked on climate change policy under President Obama. The Trump team request sparked understandable alarm among agency workers, who suspected that the new regime was planning a purge.


The transition team request came in the form of a questionnaire, as Politico was first to report. It asked for a list of DOE workers who had attended UN conferences on climate change in the last five years, as well as anyone who attended group meetings on the “social cost of carbon.”

The Washington Post reports that in an email, a department spokesperson told the newspaper they would absolutely not be providing that information:

“The Department of Energy received significant feedback from our workforce throughout the department, including the National Labs, following the release of the transition team’s questions. Some of the questions asked left many in our workforce unsettled,” said Eben Burnham-Snyder, a department spokesman. “Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of DOE (Department of Energy) and the important work our department does to benefit the American people. We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department.

“We will be forthcoming with all publically-available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.” Burnham-Snyder’s email had the last sentence in boldface for emphasis.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told the Washington Post that the questionnaire looked like “a scare tactic to intimidate federal employees who are simply doing their jobs and following the facts.”

It’s unclear whether Trump or his team will retaliate in some way for not getting what they wanted (a handy roadmap to purge federal employees because of their political beliefs). It’s also not clear what will become of the DOE once its headed by an execution-loving dancing show loser who once said he’d like to abolish it, but that’s a nightmare for another day.

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.


The Noble Renard

(a handy roadmap to purge federal employees because of their political beliefs)

Just something that people should be aware of; purging federal employees because of their political beliefs is extremely illegal. Civil service protections make any kind of firing of a non-partisan employee hard, and if it’s solely on the basis of political beliefs it would be an open-and-shut illegal termination.

I think there are a ton of employment lawyers salivating right now, looking at what Trump is going to do.

When Bush purged liberal US Attorneys, it led to the resignation of the Attorney General and damn near came close to criminal charges against a number of Bush officials. If the Trump Administration takes any lesson from that, they will be much more cautious and likely will be more subtle. So keep an eye out.

That said, a slightly less-well-known purge did occur in the early months of the Bush administration, of the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is the appellate body that hears cases from the immigration courts. Under John Ashcroft, and through the work of then-staffer Kris Kobach, the Board of Immigration Appeals’ liberal members were all essentially told that they would have to resign or take a demotion, or go through a painful firing process that would have ruined the agency and caused a lot of damage to the judges themselves. One of the people who was purged has spoken about it recently and it’s a disturbing look at what could happen in the next six months.