Cummings tells Snyder: 'I intend to continue' Flint water probe

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
In response to new criminal charges filed in connection with the Flint water crisis Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, renewed his call for a subpoena for Gov. Rick Snyder’s records and blasted the panel’s chair for “prematurely” closing its probe.

The Democrat set to take control of the U.S. House Oversight Committee next year is renewing his call for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to hand over any additional documents related to the Flint water contamination crisis by Jan. 11.

“I intend to continue this investigation in the next Congress,” U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said in a Wednesday letter to Snyder.

Snyder testified before the Republican-controlled House committee in March of 2016, when Cummings and other Democrats called on him to resign. With Democrats winning control of the House in November, Cummings will become chairman of the committee and said last month he is likely to bring Snyder back before Congress.

“I’m not done with Flint,” Cummings told The Detroit News in late November.

In his Wednesday letter to Snyder, Cummings asked Snyder to “fully comply” with a previous bipartisan committee request for documents related to the Flint water crisis, as outlined in a February 2016 letter.

Among the documents that Cummings said he is requesting:

  • Copies of all of Snyder's daily briefings that included the Flint water crisis.
  • Public complaints about Flint's water quality.
  • Testing results from Flint's water concerning Legionella bacteria or Legionnaires' disease.
  • All documents relating to when Snyder became aware of the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the Flint region.

Snyder’s office has maintained that he has supplied all of the requested documents. 

"We have not received any sort of letter, so will withhold any comments at this time," Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Wednesday. 

Upon completion of the request, Cummings asked the governor to “submit a written certification that a diligent search has been completed and any responsive documents have been produced.”

    In his March 2016 testimony, Snyder accepted responsibility for not questioning the conclusions of state experts on Flint's water quality after the city shifted its water source from the Detroit area water system to the Flint River.

    Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington, Thursday, March 17, 2016, to look into the circumstances surrounding high levels of lead found in many residents' tap water in Flint, Michigan. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    But the Republican governor blamed Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials for not telling him about lead-contaminated water, maintaining he did not know about elevated lead levels until shortly before he announced an action plan in October 2015.

    He insisted that he did not learn about an outbreak of deadly Legionnaires’ disease until mid-January 2016.

    Cummings last year asked Republicans leading the panel to subpoena Snyder to direct him to comply "in full" with the panel's bipartisan request for documents relating to the Flint crisis.

    The Maryland Democrat has been particularly interested in documents relating to when Snyder became aware of concerns relating to Flint's outbreak of Legionnaires' disease, a deadly form of pneumonia that killed 12 people and sickened dozens of others in Genesee County in 2014-15.

    After a top aide contradicted Snyder's statements to the Oversight panel, committee leaders last year asked Snyder about his congressional testimony that he first learned about the Legionnaires' concerns in January 2016.

    Urban affairs aide Harvey Hollins had testified that he informed the governor about the Legionnaires’ outbreak in December 2015 but didn't indicate what he specifically told Snyder about the Legionnaires’ cases.

    Snyder stuck by his testimony, but that didn't satisfy Cummings and other Democrats.

    Snyder's office has said it provided the Oversight committee with tens of thousands of pages of records, in addition to documents from the state's attorney general, health and environmental departments.

    Former House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, closed the panel's Flint inquiry in December 2016 over the objections of Cummings, who called the move premature and "inconceivable" at the time. 

    The Snyder letter is among several previous document requests Cummings is renewing this week as he prepares to take over the House Oversight Committee, including additional requests to President Donald Trump’s administration.

    "As Democrats prepare to take the reins in Congress, we are insisting — as a basic first step — that the Trump Administration and others comply with these Republican requests,” Cummings said in a statement.