Energy Department balks at Team Trump's climate 'witch hunt'

Donald Trump speaks at a "get-out-the-vote" rally on December 9, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
During every presidential transition period, officials representing the president-elect will invariably reach out to various departments and agencies in preparation for the leadership change. For the most part, these meetings are mundane and inconsequential.But last week offered an unnerving example to the contrary. The Washington Post reported:

The Trump transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking officials there to identify which department employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation's carbon output.The questionnaire requests a list of those individuals who have taken part in international climate talks over the past five years and "which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan."The questionnaire, which one Energy Department official described as unusually "intrusive" and a matter for departmental lawyers, has raised concern that the Trump transition team was trying to figure out how to target the people, including civil servants, who have helped implement policies under Obama.

And those concerns were hardly groundless. Why in the world would Donald Trump's aides need the specific names of career employees who've worked on climate policy in recent years? Is the incoming Republican team planning some kind of purge?One current Energy Department employee told the paper, "With some of these questions, it feels more like an inquisition than a question, in terms of going after career employees who have been here through the Bush years to Clinton, and up to now."A former DOE staffer told Politico it "sounds like a freaking witch hunt."But in an interesting twist, the Department of Energy's current leadership made an important decision: they said no to Trump's team. The Washington Post reported today that DOE officials "resolutely rejected" the request.

"The Department of Energy received significant feedback from our workforce throughout the department, including the National Labs, following the release of the transition team's questions. Some of the questions asked left many in our workforce unsettled," said Eben Burnham-Snyder, a department spokesman. "Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of DOE (Department of Energy) and the important work our department does to benefit the American people. We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department."We will be forthcoming with all publically-available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team." Burnham-Snyder's email had the last sentence in boldface for emphasis.

Good for them. Trump's request was ridiculous. The more the president-elect's team hears the word "no" in response to outlandish questions, especially McCarthy-like appeals such as these, the better.