Democrats are asserting the authority of their new majority in the House, making some big moves already. The new chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, calling Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen out for “outright lies” in a presentation she gave Congress yesterday, has now requested a slew of documents from Nielsen in advance of a “long overdue” oversight hearing at which Nielsen will no doubt face extensive questioning from Democrats (Huffington Post).
The House Homeland Security Committee Chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), wrote Nielsen a letter yesterday, after witnessing Nielsen’s presentation earlier in the day, in which, as part of an effort to gain support for Trump’s border wall, she made unfounded claims that the Trump administration had, among other things, apprehended thousands of terrorists at the Mexican border last year. Thompson started his letter right off by excoriating Nielsen over that presentation, writing, according to the Huffington Post, “Your border security presentation submitted to Congress today is yet another example of the misinformation and outright lies the Trump Administration has used to make the case for the President’s boondoggle border wall.”
Thompson requested documents related to President Trump’s border wall, to the policy of using quotas regarding asylum seekers at ports of entry, and to the in-custody deaths of two children, as well as the treatment of children in general, by the Department of Homeland Security, giving Nielsen until January 18 to comply, all as a preface to an oversight hearing on those issues. According to the Huffington Post:
The new Democratic head of the House Homeland Security Committee on Friday ripped Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for peddling “outright lies” about border security and called for an oversight hearing. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) made the accusation in a scathing letter to Nielsen following a private presentation to Congress in which she tried to promote President Donald Trump’s border wall by falsely claiming thousands of terrorists were apprehended at the southern border last year…Thompson asked Nielsen to appear for a hearing and requested “any documents, contracts, records, memoranda, correspondence, or other communications” related to the border wall, the “metering” of asylum-seekers at ports of entry ― which refers to the use of daily quotas ― and the treatment of children in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody…Thompson also described the wall as a waste of resources and expressed concern about the administration “squandering American taxpayer money” on an ineffective solution for legitimate border security issues.
Thompson’s letter, in its entirety, was posted on Twitter by Bloomberg News reporter Laura Litvan, who also wrote, “NEW: DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is about to go under the microscope. House Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson tells her in a letter this evening she is “long overdue” for an oversight hearing, having appeared just once when the panel was under GOP control.” Here is Litvan’s tweet showing an image of the letter:
NEW: DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is about to go under the microscope. House Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson tells her in a letter this evening she is “long overdue” for an oversight hearing, having appeared just once when the panel was under GOP control. pic.twitter.com/UVtTYXSM00
— Laura Litvan (@LauraLitvan) January 5, 2019
Nielsen may not like receiving a letter that starts right off in the first sentence calling her out for “misinformation and outright lies”, but she will have to comply with Chairman Thompson’s request since, as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, he has the power to subpoena both her and the requested documentation if she does not comply voluntarily. Thompson makes the point that Nielsen had only been called before the committee for an oversight hearing one time during her tenure while Republicans held the House, therefore describing her appearance before the committee as “long overdue”. This development is a prime example of how much of a change having the Democrats in control of the House represents – already House Democrats are moving to provide oversight of the Trump administration that was largely lacking while Republicans held majorities in both houses.