Former EPA Official Says Deep State Is Taking Another Scalp As Agency Comes Under Fire

Chris White on November 8, 2019

A member of the so-called deep state is trying to knock out one of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s top lieutenants, a former EPA official told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Acting Inspector General Charles Sheehan is out to get EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson, Mandy Gunasekara, a former official with the agency’s air and radiation department, told the DCNF on Friday. Sheehan told Congress in October that Jackson is refusing to participate in ongoing probes.

“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 said. She was referring to Sheehan’s probe of Jackson’s alleged efforts to pressure a former agency scientist ahead of her congressional testimony.

“To countenance open defiance even in one instance — much less two, both by a senior official setting precedent for himself and all agency staff — is ruinous,” Sheehan wrote in the Oct. 29 letter.

EPA officials said Jackson did the best he could to provide documentation to Sheehan.

“I have neither delayed nor refused to fully cooperate with EPA’s Inspector General,” Jackson wrote in a Nov. 5 letter to Wheeler that was released by the agency.

Wheeler told lawmakers in a Nov. 5 letter that Sheehan’s requests that Jackson identify who provided him a copy of testimony of environmental chemist Deborah Swackhamer in 2017 supposedly “implicates constitutional concerns.”

Jackson criticized Sheehan’s tactics in his Nov. 5 letter, writing that investigators from the inspector general’s staff barged into his office unannounced in July to discuss personnel matters with him. The investigators changed the topic of the discussion dramatically the next day when they returned.

“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.

Wheeler’s Nov. 5 letter to Congress noted that he was made aware Oct. 21 that Jackson relented and promised to meet with Sheehan’s investigators over the matter after initially demanding they explain why they wanted to talk. EPA spokesman Michael Abboud echoed a similar position.

“EPA has attempted to provide assistance to the Office of Inspector General, and we will continue to do so. The Acting Inspector General’s decision to continue with the Seven Day Letter is troubling in light of the assistance the Agency provided and undermines the cooperative and iterative relationship that EPA has shared with its OIG,” Abboud said.

Gunasekara suggested there might be other reasons why the inspector general is leaning so heavily on Jackson. “I think it is exactly because he is on the way out the door,” she told the DCNF, highlighting that President Donald Trump’s nominee for inspector general, Sean O’Donnell, is likely to be confirmed.

Sheehan is a career official who became deputy inspector general in April 2012 during former President Barack Obama’s second term. He was under former IG Arthur Elkins, who retired in 2018. Sheehan was a judge on EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board before becoming deputy inspector general.

EPA’s OIG has not responded to the DCNF’s request for comment. Politico reported Thursday that Jackson was also under investigation for supposedly deleting documentation about schedules and calendars.

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