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Oversight committee may subpoena USDA, DOJ over air travel

October 18, 2017 - 5:36 am

(WASHINGTON) -- The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee is sending a warning shot to federal agencies and the White House for not fully complying with the panel's investigation into administration air travel.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., could subpoena the Departments of Justice and Agriculture at the end of the month if the agencies do not turn over flight records or make a "good faith commitment" to respond to the panel, according to a new letter sent to the departments and obtained by ABC News.

"If you have not complied with the request or satisfactorily provided a good faith commitment for complying in full on or before October 31, 2017, the chairman intends to issue a subpoena for the materials," the letter reads.

Gowdy, along with Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., sent a second round of letters to 24 federal agencies and the White House Tuesday seeking information about the use of government and private aircraft.

The White House, Treasury and several additional agencies did not fully comply with the initial request for flight records, according to the committee, which has asked them to turn over additional records by the end of the month. Representatives for Department of Agriculture and Department of Justice did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

In a two-page letter to the committee last week, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short declined to turn over flight records, referring the panel to various federal agencies.

On Tuesday the House Oversight Committee also expanded on their initial request, asking the White House and all agencies to provide the requested flight records for any air travel in the last year of the Obama administration, between January 1, 2016 and January 19, 2017.

Ten agencies -- including the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and the Interior -- turned over all requested records to the committee, including flight manifests, records of government and non-commercial aircraft use, travel justifications and cost estimates.

The House Oversight Committee started investigating agency air travel after reports that former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price spent hundreds of thousands of dollars flying on private jets for government work.

Price resigned in late September over the controversy. The White House also cracked down on private air travel, putting in place a new policy requiring chief of staff John Kelly to sign off on Cabinet officials' non-commercial air travel.

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