House Oversight re-launches hurricane response investigation

To seek documents from administration on handling

By By Lauren Fox and Ellie Kaufman, CNN
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Damaged homes along a river in Utuado, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 10, 2017.

(CNN) - The House Oversight Committee is re-launching its investigation into how the Trump administration handled the response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

In letters to the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services and FEMA, the Oversight Committee says it will re-establish its investigation and seek documents from the Trump administration over their handling of the natural disasters.

"Today the Oversight Committee is reestablishing its investigation of the Trump administration's response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and the White House will not be exempt. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether any of our nation's disaster response laws need to be amended and improved-- including with respect to long-term planning, advance contracting, real-time communications, intelligence-sharing and leadership structure," the committee wrote.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, had requested documents related to the hurricane response back in October of 2017 when he was ranking member on the Oversight committee. Cummings writes in his latest letter that the White House never turned over a single piece of paper related to his inquiry into the handling of the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Both FEMA and HHS never responded to the committee's 2017 requests, according to the letters.

As a result, the committee is requesting a slew of new documents from the White House Office of Management and Budget, FEMA and HHS by May 20.

Leadership at FEMA has changed hands in the past few months after former FEMA Administrator Brock Long left his post in February. FEMA is part of the Department of Homeland Security which has undergone several leadership changes since former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen departed last month.

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