Washington, D.C. (June 19, 2019) – After nearly four months, Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) has finally received an explanation from the Department of Commerce (Commerce) that claims the Commerce Secretary’s final report to the President regarding the Section 232 investigation into the national security impacts of the Administration’s proposed automobile tariffs may constitute a presidential record. In this determination, which is in response to CoA Institute’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent litigation, Commerce states it is reviewing whether the report does in fact constitute a presidential record, which would remove it from the scope of the FOIA. It also claims that if the report ultimately is classified as an “agency record,” Commerce will still refuse to provide access to the report under the guise of presidential communications or deliberate process privileges.

Commerce has yet to release the report to the public despite a statutory obligation that the agency publish portions of the report that do not contain classified or proprietary information in the Federal Register, which it has done with the report on Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs. This recent correspondence—while inadequate—is the first substantive response the agency has given for why it refuses to allow the public to see the report. CoA Institute will challenge this response and continue to pursue the rightful release of this report.

James Valvo, counsel and senior policy advisor at Cause of Action Institute:

“Although this correspondence provides the first substantive response from the government about why it refuses to release the 232 auto tariff report, it is a misguided and unfortunate attempt to withhold information from the public. The government is grasping for any excuse to prevent access to the report, which will not go unchallenged by Cause of Action Institute. The public has a right to the information, which the Administration apparently claims justifies its proposed automobile tariffs.  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.”

The full determination from Commerce can be found here.

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Media ContactMatt Frendewey, matt.frendewey@causeofaction.org | 202-699-2018