In the meantime, however, an unofficial shadow office, stocked with Obama loyalists, is quietly at work.
The network, described to STAT by officials from the previous administration who are involved, is informal yet organized, allowing for a far-reaching if largely inconspicuous effort to continue advocating for the Obama science agenda.
Participants have provided counsel to Democratic lawmakers and their staffs on Capitol Hill, and they have held group-wide strategy sessions much in the same fashion as they did when they worked out of a fourth-floor wing in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House.
“It is certainly true that MANY of the former OSTP staffers are working, in a variety of ways, to fill the void,” John Holdren, who led Obama’s OSTP and who has taken part in some of the new group’s activities, wrote in an email to STAT. “Me, too.”
While Trump declared on Earth Day that “rigorous science is critical,” much of the scientific community began expressing alarm at the new administration’s positions even before his inauguration, including Trump’s comments on vaccine safety and his stated interest in rolling back steps to address climate change.
In interviews, members of the new Obama group — which numbers in the dozens — said they have remained more engaged than they expected to before Trump’s victory in November.
Beyond fielding policy questions from congressional offices, they have consulted with scientific societies, and advised organizers of the March for Science, among other activists — a few have even made those organizations their new professional homes.
Facher reports further that they have also assisted in analyzing the impact of White House budget proposals — which have outlined deep cuts to federal research agencies — and the impact of policies including Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords.
Multiple Democratic congressional staffers said to STAT that they have remained in contact with former OSTP officials they had worked with during the previous administration.
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