Commerce Department Denies FOIA Request for Sec. 232 Report

Date: June 25, 2019

The Department of Commerce denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to make public its Sec. 232 report concluding that imported automobiles and parts are a threat to national security.

The government watchdog group, the Cause of Action Institute, submitted the request in February, at the time the department sent their findings to President Donald Trump. The president published a proclamation on May 17, but delayed actions for six months to open opportunities for negotiations with Japan, the EU and other exporters.

The department sent a letter to the institute on June 13 saying that they were reviewing whether the report constitutes as a “presidential record” and thus except from FOIA regulations.

The letter states that the report would also be exempted, if deemed an agency record, “pursuant to the presidential communications privilege and/or the deliberative process privilege, until all actions deemed necessary to adjust the imports of automobiles and automobile parts so that such imports will not threaten to impair the national security have been completed.”

James Valvo, counsel and senior policy adviser at Cause of Action Institute, said that the group will continue to seek a copy of the report, and that the Trump administration was “grasping for any excuse to prevent access to the report.”

"The public has a right to the information, which the Administration apparently claims justifies its proposed automobile tariffs," Valvo said. "The White House provided a selective summary of the report on its website, instead of allowing the public to see the full report, as the statute requires."

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