(Washington, DC) House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.), Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), and Subcommittee on the Environment Ranking Member Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) raised concerns about ongoing toxic workplace allegations at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and officials’ use of technology to skirt federal records laws and congressional oversight. In a letter to Dr. Alondra Nelson, who is performing the duties of the OSTP director, the Republican lawmakers call for the release of all communications made through Signal Messenger as well as all reports and communications about toxic workplace allegations.
“Your elevation at OSTP is troubling because of the alleged complicity you and other members of senior leadership played in Lander’s behavior. Additional concerning information reviewed by Committee Republicans shows that you use the messaging application Signal to communicate with OSTP employees about work—potentially violating federal records laws,” wrote the Republican lawmakers. “This behavior is unacceptable at any organization, much less a federal agency tasked with advising the President of the United States.”
On February 7, 2022, Lucas led a bipartisan letter from the Science Committee to President Biden, requesting a full copy of the White House’s investigation into reports that OSTP Director Eric Lander created a toxic work environment and bullied staff. Lander announced his resignation later that day. On February 9, 2022, Comer and Norman wrote to Dana Remus, Counsel to President Biden, questioning the White House decision not to fire Lander when confronted by well-documented allegations against him for over a year. On February 16, 2022, Dr. Alondra Nelson was given the designation of “performing the duties of director,” despite being complicit in allegations of bullying, harassment, and retaliation. Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and Science Committee have also reviewed information indicating Dr. Nelson is using Signal Messenger to conduct official business and discuss agency matters. This technology is often intended to skirt federal records laws and prevent oversight by Congress.
“The serious issues Committee Republicans are uncovering at OSTP have not been remedied by Lander’s resignation. The decision by the White House to elevate you to lead OSTP when you allegedly participated in the same behavior that led to your predecessor’s resignation raises questions about your ability to lead the agency, particularly given your efforts to thwart federal records laws. We remind you that retaliation against whistleblowers may constitute violations of law that carry penalties,” continued the Republican lawmakers.