Washington, DC (Feb. 21, 2018)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter requesting that Chairman Trey Gowdy issue a subpoena to compel U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to produce documents it has been withholding for months regarding extremely disturbing allegations of sexual harassment and assault by CBP employees.
“We believe our Committee has a Constitutional obligation and a moral duty to investigate these heinous allegations of sexual assault against federal employees,” the Ranking Members wrote.
On May 15, 2017, Cummings, Connolly, and Lynch—along with Chairman Mark Meadows of the Subcommittee on Government Operations and Chairman Ron DeSantis of the Subcommittee on National Security—sent a joint letter requesting that CBP produce seven categories of documents and information, including all documents regarding allegations of sexual harassment and assault for the past several years, the personnel files for employees accused of sexual harassment and abuse, and all documents relating to CBP’s efforts to investigate these allegations.
To date, CBP has produced documents from only one category—policy documents—and has not produced any other documents requested by the Members.
According to multiple whistleblowers, CBP officers at Newark Liberty International Airport:
- subjected fellow employees to sexual harassment and “terrorizing” sexual abuse;
- took fellow employees to a room used for monitoring security camera feeds, threw them down, and taped them to a conference table known as the “rape table”;
- subjected fellow employees to sexual assaults, which one victim described as follows: “they grab you like a gang, and they forcibly throw you on the table and one officer ended up mounting me and pretty much riding me like a horse”;
- chased one fellow employee, stated that she deserved “to be put on the rape table,” and held her down while another taped her to a chair;
- threatened a fellow employee with a firearm, entering the victim’s office and making her afraid for her life and safety; and
- intimidated fellow employees to prevent them from making official complaints, and took no action when one victim did file an official complaint.
The Ranking Members noted that Gowdy has declined select sexual assault investigations in the past, claiming that he would not investigate during ongoing criminal investigations, but they also noted that on February 8, 2018, the Committee sent multiple bipartisan letters requesting documents about sexual assault allegations associated with USA Gymnastics despite an ongoing criminal investigation.
They also noted many other instances under both Republican and Democratic Chairmen when Congress has investigated matters while there were ongoing criminal investigations, including Gowdy’s own investigation as the Chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi.
“In this case, our goal should not be to determine the extent of criminal activity, which is properly left to investigators and prosecutors, but to examine whether changes need to be made to agency regulations or federal laws to prevent anything like this alleged sexual abuse and harassment from ever occurring again,” the Ranking Members wrote. “Just as with our investigation of sexual abuse in gymnastics, we can conduct this investigation without negatively affecting any ongoing criminal investigation.”
Click here to read today’s letter.