The Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General said it would investigate an incident earlier this month in which two former Trump-appointed members released debunked science reports denying the existence and significance of climate change of human origin, allegedly on behalf of the US government.
Hawaii Democrat Senator Mazie K. Hirono, along with four other Senate Democrats, had called for an investigation into possible wrongdoing regarding the posting and misuse of government logos. In a letter to the senator on Friday, the compliance and ethics staff at the Inspector General’s office wrote: “After careful consideration, we have decided to revisit this matter further.
Days before the end of the Trump administration, David Legates, who was the head of the United States Global Change Research Program, and Ryan Maue, a senior official in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), been reassigned after they posted reports on a website about climate denial. The Commerce Department is conducting the review because both were in detail from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part of the Commerce Department.
The reports were widely discredited theories, including one claiming that the sun and not human-made pollution is responsible for the recent warming, and carried the logo of the president’s executive office. It also claimed to be the copyrighted work of OSTP, representing “the current state of the science” on climate change. The head of that agency under Mr. Trump’s leadership, Kelvin Droegemeier, said in a statement at the time that the messages were published without his knowledge or consent.
Calling for the inquiry, Senator Hirono – along with Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut – said they feared the departure of the two appointees ” presents an opportunity for this problem going through the cracks. “
Beyond “spreading dangerous information,” senators wrote, use of the OSTP logo and copyright without permission is illegal under federal law. “Failure to hold those involved accountable sets a bad precedent for future instances in this direction,” they said. Mr. Legates did not immediately respond to a request for comment and Mr. Maue declined to comment.
A spokesperson for the Biden administration did not respond to a request for comment. But President Biden has openly declared “bringing science back” to the federal government, and the White House is expected to issue a sweeping memorandum on scientific integrity on Wednesday, according to an internal planning document obtained by The New York Times.