House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina has written to Defense Secretary James Mattis and ordered him to produce documents and communications related to allegations his top public affairs official retaliated against staff members after she used some of them to conduct her personal errands and business matters.
The letter was prompted by news first reported by CNN that Dana White, a Trump administration political appointee who serves as the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, has been under investigation for several weeks by the Pentagon's inspector general after multiple complaints were filed against her, according to four sources familiar with the probe. White has not been found to have violated any federal regulations or policies at this point.
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Gowdy's Tuesday letter to Mattis, obtained by CNN, brings the investigation into the congressional political arena.
Gowdy's committee has broad oversight powers over the federal government, and he has chosen to focus on several issues related to the Trump administration including the spending of former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Gowdy's committee has also spent significant time investigating the FBI and Justice Department handling of the Hillary Clinton and Russia investigations.
Mattis is being told to provide "all documents and communications to, from or about Dana White regarding her tasking other Department employees with non-official business," as well as all information regarding transferring staff to different positions.
Gowdy said the allegations "raise concerns about White's conduct and questions about whether Department senior managers receive proper ethics training." Gowdy asked for a briefing to committee staff by Aug. 31, and all documents by Sept. 7. "The Committee takes seriously its obligation to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and ensure all federal employees have a safe and fair work environment."
White is alleged to have misused support staff, asking them, among other things, to fetch her dry cleaning, go to the pharmacy for her and work on her mortgage paperwork. Staffers also charge that she inappropriately transferred personnel after they filed complaints about her.
The inspector general's office declined to comment on the investigation.
As many as half a dozen defense personnel, and possibly more, have been interviewed, the sources say. All the officials CNN spoke to asked that their names be withheld, not just because the investigation continues, but also because of concerns about reprisals.
When asked Thursday about the letter, DoD spokesperson Col. Rob Manning said, "This is an ongoing review and therefore we are unable to provide additional comments."