Employees of the scientific research arm at the Agriculture Department were ordered Monday to cease publication of “outward facing” documents and news releases, raising concerns that the Trump administration was seeking to influence distribution of their findings.
Department officials scrambled to clarify the memo Tuesday afternoon, after intense public scrutiny and media requests, stating that the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) had not “blacked out public information” and adding that scientific articles published through professional peer-reviewed journals have not been banned.
The USDA-wide memo, issued by the department’s acting deputy administrator, Michael Young, was intended to offer guidance on “interim procedures” until a new secretary takes over USDA.
Young stressed during a phone call with reporters Tuesday evening that his guidance does not place a gag order on publication to scientific journals, does not place a blanket freeze on press releases, or prohibit food safety announcements.
Young stressed that he is a “career official,” not a partisan appointee, and said that the memo he issued closely mirrored one sent at the beginning of the Obama administration. He also said he shared the memo with Trump transition official Sam Clovis before issuing it.
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