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Trump Muzzles U.S. Agencies

by AFP

Mandel Ngan—AFP

Federal government workers have been ordered to cease regular communication with outside groups.

Donald Trump’s administration moved quickly on Tuesday to muzzle federal government workers, apparently keen to keep the army of bureaucrats in line with the White House message.

While Trump has sought to project power from the White House, allies fanned out across government departments to impose his writ. As Trump was sworn into office on Friday, staff at the Interior Department was ordered to cease regular communications with outside groups, according to a memo obtained by AFP.

The one-page document required officials to refer any correspondence from Congress, governors, environmental groups or industry organizations to staff at the Office of the Executive Secretariat (OES). “All incoming congressional and gubernatorial correspondence as well as correspondence from Indian or Alaska tribal leaders and leaders from national level environment/recreational and industry organizations must be forwarded to OES prior to responding, regardless of addressee or signature level,” the document states. “No correspondence should be cleared to go to Congress or to any Governor until it has been reviewed by the Acting Chief of Staff and/or Senior White House Adviser.”

Certain meetings, regulations and environmental notices were also to be reported to senior staff.

The Interior Department manages most federally controlled land, relations with tribal authorities and controls access to some natural resources.

U.S. media have reported that the Trump administration has also moved to limit officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and the Agriculture Department from posting on social media and contacting journalists. Those departments are on the front line of Trump’s promise to repeal a swath of rules designed to protect the environment. Trump has argued the regulations curb jobs and provide unnecessary red tape.

On Tuesday, he resurrected two pipeline projects that had been put on hold over concerns about the environment.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he was not aware of any explicit orders for the EPA, but said “I don’t think it’s any surprise that when there’s an administration turnover, that we’re going to review the policies.”

The Interior Department memo was copied to all bureaus, including the National Park Service. The park service was forced to freeze its Twitter account over the weekend after posting images that unfavorable compared the size of crowds at Trump and Obama’s inaugurations.

Spicer acknowledged that the National Park Service’s account had been frozen. “My understanding is, is that because they had inappropriately violated their own social media policies, there was guidance that was put out to the department to act in compliance with the rules that were set forth.”

Trump and his staff have repeatedly lied about the size of the crowd at Friday’s swearing-in and complained about “negative” press coverage.

On Tuesday, Badlands National Park’s twitter handle was the next to go rogue, posting a series of messages about rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and ocean acidification. The South Dakotan park’s tweets were promptly deleted.

There are early signs that the new policies have had a chilling effect across government. At the State Department, officials report that they have been advised to exercise extra caution online.

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