Regardless of President Trump’s fate in the impeachment inquiry, his presidency has exposed serious fissures in our system of government that require repair — especially when it comes to the integrity of government research. Nothing illustrates that better than “SharpieGate,” an absurd incident in early September during which the White House reportedly ordered top weather officials to back the president’s claim that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama.
This isn’t the first time this administration has retaliated against scientists for doing their jobs. The Agriculture Department recently decided to relocate an entire staff of career economists from Washington to the Kansas City area after they published reports on the financial harms of Trump’s trade policies. The Interior Department moved a climate scientist to an accounting role after he stressed the dangers of climate change to Alaska’s Native communities. A recent tally by the Union of Concerned Scientists listed more than 120 attacks on science by the Trump administration.
Clearly, the informal rules and guardrails that used to rein in political attempts to interfere with data and research can no longer be trusted. Congress must turn these norms into law.
Government science matters. It put Americans on the moon. It helped create the Internet. And today, it helps the government protect the environment, improve our water and food safety, and provide the economic data that help businesses and investors make wise financial decisions. It provides advance warning when we’re in Mother Nature’s dangerous path.