The so-called "deep state"" is seeking to destroy a top EPA employee, says Mandy Gunasekara, a former official with the agency’s air and radiation department, according to The Daily Caller.
According to Gunasekara, acting Inspector General Charles Sheehan is on a personal quest to oust Ryan Jackson, the agency’s chief of staff.
“It is very telling. It’s just an attempt to embarrass Ryan. Make a big public spectacle. This is the way the deep state works,” Gunasekara asserted, referring to the inspector general’s decision to escalate the argument to the level of the US Congress, according to the report.
Jackson is under investigation by the office of the agency’s Inspector General over allegations that Jackson pressured an environmental chemist, Deborah Swackhamer, to alter her congressional testimony so that it downplayed a 2017 episode in which the agency dismissed several members of the Board of Scientific Counselors, the agency’s own research advisory body.
In his 5 November letter, Jackson slammed Inspector General Sheehan for his investigation tactics, saying his investigators barged into his office unannounced and sought to discuss personnel matters, but the next day changed the topic dramatically.
“I realized that the OIG investigators were trying to take advantage of a situation where I had not had the opportunity to review information or refresh my recollection on situations and matters from more than two years ago,” Jackson wrote, according to The Daily Caller.
Jackson said the investigators wanted to learn from him the identity of the person who handed him Deborah Swackhamer’s testimony. He slammed the investigators for not telling him the reason for their inquiry and refused to schedule further interviews.
“If you would like a second interview send me your questions in writing, and I will respond in writing,” Jackson said in an email to investigators on 21 October, according to The Guardian.
The inspector general then wrote a ‘seven-day letter’, a measure reserved for “particularly serious or flagrant problems, abuses or deficiencies,” which obliged EPA head Andrew Wheeler to explain the situation in a letter to Congress within a week.
In that letter, Wheeler said the agency provided “reasonable accommodations” to the investigators and supported Jackson’s refusal to identify the whistleblower’s identity, citing “constitutional concerns that are ultimately for the Agency and the [inspector general] to resolve”.
“Since the day I joined the agency, it has been my intent to provide [the inspector general] with assistance and access to agency information necessary for it to complete its important work, in a manner consistent with the constitution and applicable law,” Wheeler’s letter reads, according to The Guardian. “I believe the agency has provided such assistance in this instance.”
The EPA’s top lawyer, Matthew Leopold, defended Jackson’s refusals, saying in a 5 November letter that “it is ultimately the administrator that maintains control of the information sought and decides what constitutes an adequate accommodation by the agency of an OIG request in so far as it is practicable”. The EPA head’s response prompted Inspector General Sheehan to claim the agency was exceeding its boundaries for independence and the right to agency information.