Incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn reportedly improperly shared classified information with foreign military officers. Photograph: Kathy Willens/AP
Global warming — “it’s a hoax.”
Donald Trump has said that more than once.
So it’s understandable that the request by the president-elect’s transition team for the names of individual Energy Department employees and contractors who worked on the issue makes them worry that the trick could be on them.
“There is major concern amongst my members,” said Jeff Eagan, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) chapter at the department’s headquarters building in Washington. He’s also a 17-year Energy employee but was speaking in his union capacity. “I have received lots of calls, emails, messages expressing shock and dismay.”
The scientists and their colleagues at Energy know global warming is real. What they don’t know is what Trump might do to those whose work has been in line with the science and the Obama administration, which has spoken about “the real and urgent threat of climate change.”
Perhaps Trump’s crew will do nothing. Trump more recently has said he has an open mind about global warming, so maybe he’s discarding his flat-Earth approach to the subject. Nonetheless, the transition team’s request to “provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended” certain climate change meetings casts a shroud of apprehension over the workforce. The transition team ignored a request for comment.
Donald Trump’s transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking agency officials to identify which employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.
The questionnaire requests a list of those individuals who have taken part in international climate talks over the past five years and “which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.”
[Pruitt, Trump’s EPA pick, has both sides of climate divide girding for a major fight]
Trump and his team have vowed to dismantle specific aspects of Obama’s climate policies, and Trump has questioned the reality of climate change. The questionnaire, which one Energy Department official described as unusually “intrusive” and a matter for departmental lawyers, has raised concern that the Trump transition team is trying to figure out how to target the people, including civil servants, who have helped implement policies under Obama.
The White House is struggling to prevent a crippling exodus of foreign policy staffers eager to leave before the arrival of the Trump administration, according to current and former officials.
The top level officials in the National Security Council (NSC) are political appointees who have to submit resignations and leave in a normal transition. The rest of the 400 NSC staff are career civil servants on secondment from other departments. An unusual number of these more junior officials are now looking to depart.
Many are concerned by a proliferation of reports about the incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn. On Wednesday the Washington Post reported that Flynn had improperly shared classified information with foreign military officers. On the same day, CNN reported that the former DIA chief had this week deleted a tweet he had sent out a few days before the election that linked to a fake news story suggesting Hillary Clinton took part in crimes against children.
“Career people are looking get out and go back to their agencies and pressure is being put on them to get them to stay. There is concern there will be a half-empty NSC by the time the new administration arrives, which no one wants,” said one official.
The official added that the “landing team” sent to the NSC – Trump representatives who are supposed to prepare for the handover to Trump appointees – have been focused on issues of process, how the office functions, rather than issues of substance involving an explanation of current national security threats and the state of the world the new administration will inherit.
The Trump transition team in New York did not respond to a request for comment. The current NSC spokesman, Ned Price said in an email: “The administration has undertaken its national security transition planning with the utmost rigour and seriousness in order to effect the most seamless and responsible transition.”
Price added: “We have been working since this spring to assemble a broad variety of transition material focused on critical national security challenges as well as NSC organizational issues and the NSC-led interagency policy process. The NSC staff also is offering to the incoming team in-person briefings and discussions with current NSC leadership and staff, and is coordinating statutorily-required interagency homeland security exercises that will include both incoming and outgoing national security leadership from departments and agencies, as well as senior career public servants who will provide continuity through the transition.”
It is not clear how many of the incoming team have taken up the offer of personal briefings. Flynn himself has been meeting a steady flow of foreign diplomats in New York in recent days. He met the UK national security adviser, Mark Lyall Grant, over the weekend, and French president’s diplomatic adviser, Jacques Audibert, a few days earlier.
It is unclear how much contact there is between the embryonic policy teams in New York and the landing teams in Washington, however.