Two GOP representatives are accusing the White House of “purging” officials with ties to former President Donald Trump’s administration, after Betsy Weatherhead, a career scientist named by Trump to lead a government report on climate change, was removed from her post.
The representatives, James Comer of Kentucky and Ralph Norman of South Carolina, said Weatherhead’s removal was suspicious, and they accused the Biden administration of targeting individuals that previously worked for Trump.
“It appears the Biden administration is continuing to purge officials in the government based on their ties to the Trump administration,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Jane Lubchenco, deputy director for climate and environment at the White House Science and Technology Policy Office, the Associated Press reported.
Last month, Comer and Norman also demanded to see records from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), after dozens of scientists and other experts that worked with the Trump administration were removed from two key advisory boards.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Comer is the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, while Norman is the senior Republican on the panel’s environment subcommittee. Weatherhead, a career scientist named in November to lead the sweeping National Climate Assessment, was reassigned last month to the U.S. Geological Survey, an Interior Department agency.
The White House declined to say why Weatherhead, a longtime University of Colorado climate scientist who also has worked in the private sector, was removed from her post.
U.S. Library of Congress/Public Domain
Weatherhead was technically on loan to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy—which oversees the climate report—and is “returning to her home agency,” the White House said. No reason was given, nor did officials say when a replacement will be named.
Weatherhead’s reassignment within the first months of a new administration appears “solely based on her ties to the Trump administration,” Comer and Norman wrote, and “demonstrates yet another example of a deeply troubling partisan political agenda” under President Joe Biden.
The National Climate Assessment is the U.S. government’s definitive report on the effects of climate change and includes contributions from at least 13 government agencies. The most recent report, issued in 2018, warned that natural disasters are worsening in the United States because of global warming.
Despite concerns that Trump administration officials would tamper with its findings, the report was widely praised as accurately portraying the threat posed by climate change.
Trump, who has repeatedly downplayed or disputed the effects of climate change, said he read some of the report “and it’s fine.” But Trump said he did not believe the report’s key conclusion that hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters are worsening because of global warming and are likely to cause hundreds of billions of dollars a year in damage.
Biden, meanwhile, calls climate change an existential threat to the planet and has made efforts to slow global warming a top priority of his administration. He led a virtual global summit on climate change from the White House last month.