- Federal agencies asked the Trump White House to approve dozens of new “.gov” websites.
- But Trump officials rejected many of them, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
- In contrast, the Biden White House has approved nearly all such website requests.
Donald Trump’s White House has ordered dozens of federal agencies to create new government websites aimed at helping the homeless, fighting human trafficking and helping people vote, according to records obtained by Insider through a Freedom of Information Act request. stopped from
The requests for the new websites came from agencies large and small at a time when Trump had become openly hostile toward his own administration, often deriding the executive branch of the federal government as an out-of-control “Deep State”. They were plotting to weaken him.
The Department of Defense, the Department of Labor, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Environmental Protection Agency are among more than two dozen agencies that were rejected by Trump’s Office of Management and Budget.
Proposed websites that were rejected by Trump’s Office of Management and Budget include HumanTrafficking.gov (Department of State); ReportFraud.gov (Federal Trade Commission); Telehealth.gov (Department of Health and Human Services), FindShelters.gov (Department of Housing and Urban Development), and FiscalData.gov (Department of Treasury), according to federal records.
Such custom “.gov” website domains enhance the ability of government agencies to effectively serve and market services to the American public that is universally connected to the Internet.
Without them, agencies can still create new sections on their primary websites, but with a long and memorable subdomain name full of slashes and hyphens—not exactly prime fodder for a billboard or public service announcement.
Documents obtained by Insider don’t give any reason for the Office of Management and Budget to deny or accept an agency’s “.gov” website domain request.
Nor does the Office of Management and Budget, whose spokeswoman, Isabel Aldunet, declined to answer Insider’s questions.
Representatives for Trump, who this week officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign, did not respond to multiple messages.
Major Differences Between Trump and Biden
The Trump White House’s practice of routinely blocking and slowing federal agencies’ website requests stands in stark contrast to President Joe Biden’s White House, which has approved nearly every request it receives, federal records indicate. Huh.
Of the 105 “.gov” websites that considered Trump’s management and budget between July 2018 and the day Trump left office on January 20, 2021, it has approved 60, rejected 44, and one is pending. Left — a 41.9% rejection rate, according to records obtained by Insider.
Of the 95 “.gov” website requests the Biden Office of Management and Budget considered between January 21, 2021 and September 9, 2022, it approved 85, denied four, and voluntarily withdrew six requests recorded – a 4.2% rejection rate.
Insider asked more than a dozen federal agencies that had their custom .gov website domain requests denied by the Trump White House to see what happened.
Some declined to comment, including officials with the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Labor. Others did not respond to inquiries, including the Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those who commented provided limited information on why they sought the new .gov websites or why the Trump White House denied their requests.
Housing and Urban Development, for one, said the insider said in a statement that it set up FindShelters.gov in late 2019 “to build a new tool that helps communities across the country find housing, shelter, health Will provide information on care and clothing resources.”
After two months in limbo, the Trump White House denied the agency’s request. It now provides such information on its main agency website with focused resources at the URL https://www.hud.gov/homelessness_resources.
HUD’s understanding of why its request was denied: “A federal-wide effort is underway to limit and reduce the number of federal public-facing websites. The effort is designed to reduce costs and redundancies.” was started for.
On December 23, 2019, the CIA asked Trump’s White House to approve the website domain DataTransport.gov. A week later, the Office of Management and Budget rejected the request.
The domain was registered to support IC’s data services program, said a source familiar with the matter of the CIA’s request, with “IC” standing for “Intelligence Community.” The source did not provide any additional details.
In March 2019, the normally non-political Peace Corps asked Trump’s Office of Management and Budget to green-light it. Office of Management and Budget officials denied the request at an unspecified date.
“In compliance with Binding Operational Directive (BOD) 18-01, the domain was requested to enhance email and Web security,” Peace Corps spokesman Troy Blackwell wrote in an email.
In early 2020, the Peace Corps began the process of leaving China – one of Trump’s favorite targets and subjects. Since then the Peace Corps has not raised its PeaceCorpsCN.gov website request again.
“After the Peace Corps shut down China Post, we no longer needed the domain,” Blackwell said.
block and delay
In at least one case, Trump’s White House denied a request for a website – the United States Agency for International Development-sponsored ProsperAfrica.gov – that was later approved by Biden’s White House.
The ProsperAfrica.gov website now details the United States Agency for International Development’s efforts to mobilize services and resources from the US government to empower businesses and investors on the African continent with market insight, deal support and financing opportunities. .
And while Trump’s Office of Management and Budget fine-tuned custom website domains, approval often took weeks or months, rather than days or hours for Biden’s Office of Management and Budget.
One particularly testy delay occurred during the summer of 2020, when the Election Assistance Commission sought approval to create HelpAmericaVote.gov and use it to recruit and coordinate an army of new poll workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which Till then the tens had been sidelined. Thousands of older election volunteers are unable or unwilling to staff in-person voting sites.
There was an unexpectedly long delay. Finally, the Office of Management and Budget shut down the Election Commission’s HelpAmericaVote.gov website, arguing in an email obtained by Insider that the election agency’s request “does not justify the creation of a stand-alone site.” ” The decision came as Trump’s claim that the US elections were “rigged” and fraud had grown louder and ever more disconnected from reality.
Mona Harrington, then executive director of the Electoral Assistance Commission, frantically appealed for reconsideration.
“It’s really negatively impacting our progress at this point,” she wrote to Justin Grimes, then an official in the Office of Management and Budget of the federal Chief Information Officer. “Please advise, we are in dire need of a domain.”
Several days later, the Office of Management and Budget reversed its decision, and HelpAmericaVote.gov will go live in mid-August 2020, just in time for National Vote Worker Recruitment Day on September 1. About 100,000 people visited the site that day. Election Aid Commission said
In a statement to Insider at the time, Trump’s Office of Management and Budget said it denied the Election Assistance Commission’s request for HelpAmericaVote.gov “because the information provided is not sufficient for a stand-alone site based on existing requirements.” Does not justify construction. OMB acted. Approves subject matter importance to improve justification with EAC.”
Trump’s Office of Management and Budget quickly approved some custom web domains.
Among those that got the fastest approval: TrumpLibrary.gov, TrumpWhiteHouse.gov, and FlyHealthy.gov.
Curiously, on October 8, 2020, the General Services Administration proposed creating BuildBackBetter.gov, which was approved by Trump’s Office of Management and Budget the same day, according to federal records.
At that juncture, Biden has already made “Build Back Better” a cornerstone of his 2020 presidential campaign platform. Trump’s administration did not use the BuildBackBetter.gov domain for any material purpose. But in mid-November 2020, then-President-elect Biden began using it as part of his official presidential transition web presence, according to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
an opaque approval process
In 2018 Trump tapped the White House Office of Management and Budget to serve as the national gatekeeper for new federal government websites – a role previously filled by the General Services Administration.
In a statement to Insider last year, the General Services Administration said that the Office of Management and Budget made the decision in February 2018 to “execute adjudication of all new federal executive branch .gov domain requests, so that the executive branch can provide a stand-alone .gov domain.” to limit the spread of. website/domain and infrastructure.”
The office quickly took a tough stance on the agencies’ website requests, denying as much as it had accepted during the second half of 2018, according to federal records.
But the decisions were taken on the basis of public opinion.
In January 2021, Insider filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of Management and Budget for records related to the .gov website domain that federal government agencies had petitioned to create. Insider also asked for the record on whether the Office of Management and Budget approved or denied the agencies’ request to create .gov websites.
In March 2021, Office of Management and Budget officials denied Insider’s FOIA request, saying “no responsive records were found.”
Insider formally appealed that decision. In late October, nearly 19 months later, Office of Management and budget officials acknowledged that the records requested by Insider did indeed exist.
Officials then agreed to release a summary of .gov website requests that the Office of Management and Budget had approved and denied, though it did not immediately provide other requested records, such as documents explaining whether officials had accessed a particular website. Why approved or rejected.
The data includes eight recently requested websites that are listed as “pending”. Seven come from the Department of Education and appear to be related to student loan relief, a top priority of the Biden administration, and feature URLs like studentdebtrelief.go and getstudentloanrelief.go.
The websites were not yet functional as of mid-November.