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Elijah Cummings Says Republicans Are Soft On Rick Snyder Over Flint Water Crisis

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 22/02/2016 Tyler Tynes

WASHINGTON -- A top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee wants Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to release more emails pertaining to the Flint water crisis.

In a letter Monday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to demand the documents from Snyder. Chaffetz has said he wouldn't request the items because Snyder could claim executive privilege over his communications.

“Although I was not a part of your conversation with Governor Snyder,” Cummings wrote, “any claim of executive privilege to withhold documents from Congress would be a surprising turn of events that directly contradicts the Governor’s own promises of accountability to the people of Michigan.”

Cummings' letter noted that Chaffetz sent a number of document requests to former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D ) for the committee's yearlong investigation into a scandal involving the state’s health insurance exchange. Kitzhaber's office produced thousands of pages of documents and emails in response. 

This is Cummings' second attempt to procure emails from Snyder; Cummings and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) previously emailed the Michigan governor on Jan. 29. Snyder ignored the original request.

Cummings said that by not sending any documentation requests to Snyder's office, the committee creates a perception of a double standard by putting pressure on Democratic officials and not Republicans. 

“There is no legitimate basis for treating governors differently based on their political parties, and I believe the Committee should insist on the same level of compliance from the Republican Governor of Michigan that it has required of the Democratic Governor of Oregon," Cummings wrote.

Cummings rejected the notion that Snyder's poor or selective responses to public document requests were reason enough not to send requests from the committee.

Documents obtained by journalists and activists through official requests have been key to exposing the government's missteps in Flint, where residents have been unable to drink the water because of high lead levels. Michigan law exempts the governor's office from records requests, but Snyder released a batch of emails last month anyway. 

Cummings said that when the committee fails to send any requests, it undermines their ability to investigate. 

"The Committee has never accepted this practice as an adequate standard of investigation, and we should not do so now," Cummings wrote. "Governor Snyder and his staff are central figures in the decision-making process that led to the poisoning of Flint residents, and the Committee owes it to these residents to conduct a comprehensive and bipartisan investigation.”

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