Posts tagged with "The Washington Post"

Trump severs ties with three pollsters after bleak numbers are leaked

June 18, 2019

President Donald Trump appears to be stumbling before he is even out of the gate. Although he hasn’t stopped campaigning since his 2016 election—holding rallies nationwide for his political base even while he has been in office—it is now an open secret that the incumbent president is trailing several Democratic contenders … and not just by a trivial amount.

In fact, The Washington Post reported on June 17, President Trump’s campaign severed ties with three members of his polling team late last week following a leak of grim numbers to the media. The polling results showed him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in several battleground states, as well as failing to match the momentum of other Democratic hopefuls.

Days ahead of Trump’s official launch of his reelection bid today, the campaign is ending its relationships with Brett Loyd, Mike Baselice, and Adam Geller while keeping pollsters Tony Fabrizio and John McLaughlin, the Post said.

The officials, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss internal moves. The Trump campaign declined to comment. NBC News first reported on the campaign’s actions.

The news follows reports—first by Politico and later by The New York Timeson a 17-state internal poll conducted by Fabrizio. The data show Trump trailing Biden by double digits in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Michigan, where Trump narrowly edged out Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. The poll also found Trump behind Biden in several other states that were key to the president’s win — Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia — while holding a narrow edge in strongly Republican Texas.

And other polling bears the results out. According to Real Clear Politics, a poll by Fox News posted on June 16 found that Biden would beat Trump by ten points (49-39) in the general election. Sanders would take a nine-point lead (49-40; Warren, a two-point lead (43-41); Harris, a one-point lead (42-41), and Buttigieg a one-point lead (41-40).

As for general job approval, the Fox poll found that 45% of the U.S. population approves of President Trump’s performance, while 53% disapproves.

President Trump spoke to reporters in the Oval Office on June 12, claiming his reelection campaign is leading “in every single state that we polled.”

But, privately, the president was livid that the numbers leaked out, according to White House and campaign officials.

“He is madder that the numbers are out than that the numbers exist,” said one administration source.

On Monday morning, Trump tweeted, “A poll should be done on which is the more dishonest and deceitful newspaper, the Failing New York Times or the Amazon (lobbyist) Washington Post! They are both a disgrace to our Country, the Enemy of the People, but I just can’t seem to figure out which is worse? The good….news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Biden gets bashed for his support of Hyde Amendment

June 7, 2019

Democratic voters who had backed Joe Biden’s presidential run to date—as well as three national groups that advocate for women’s rights—are criticizing the former vice president over his support for the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal Medicaid funding for abortion services.

The fallout has occurred in response to a June 5 NBC News report that Biden continues to support the amendment, which allows for exceptions only after rape or incest—or to save the life of the mother.

Biden started the week on a strong roll—with 33% of national poll respondents saying they would support him; in contast to 16.7% for Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), 8.2% for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), 7.8% for Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), and 6.8% for Mayor Pete Buttigieg of (D-South Bend, Indiana), according to Real Clear Politics.

However, those numbers could change, in light of his less-than-overwhelming support of a woman’s right to choose.

Indeed, Biden only would back repealing the amendment “if abortion avenues currently protected under Roe were threatened,” his campaign told NBC News.

In a statement released on June 5, Ilyse Hogue, president of the abortion rights group NARAL, said there is “no political or ideological excuse” for Biden’s support for the amendment, which she said “translates into discrimination against poor women and women of color plain and simple.”

She added, “His position further endangers women and families already facing enormous hurdles and creates two classes of rights for people in this country, which is inherently undemocratic.”

Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, a political action committee that works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, also issued a statement, saying, “At a time when reproductive rights are under consistent attack, it’s unacceptable that a major Democratic nominee supports the Hyde Amendment.”

Schriock further stated, “We hope that Vice President Biden will reconsider this position and what it means to millions of women.”

According to a report by The Washington Post, Biden’s stance on the issue puts him at odds with most of the 2020 Democratic presidential field, as well as with the Democratic Party’s platform. In 2016, the party amended its platform to include a plank calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, describing it as among the “federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion.”

“The Democratic Party platform is crystal clear in supporting the right to safe, legal abortion and repealing the Hyde Amendment, a position held by the majority of voters,” said Kelley Robinson, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, on June 5.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Editor’s note: According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on the night of June 6 that he now opposes a ban on the use of federal funds for most abortions, reversing his longstanding position amid pressure from fellow Democrats and abortion-rights groups.

Kushner is flummoxed on interview questions about Trump’s racism

June 4, 2019

When you work for the family business, loyalty isn’t just a nicety; it’s a rigorous job requirement. So, we weren’t expecting any big reveals from presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner during his June 2 interview with National Political Reporter Jonathan Swan of Axios on HBO.

Indeed, when pressed by Swan about whether current POTUS, Donald Trump, could be characterized as a racist—judging by his no-holds-barred birther campaign against his predecessor Barack Obama—Kushner was briefly flummoxed, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Here’s a quick transcript, obtained from the news outlet:

SWAN: Have you ever seen him say or do anything that you would describe as racist or bigoted?

KUSHNER: So, the answer is un— uh, no. Absolutely not. You can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then run for president and be a racist. What I’ll say is that, when a lot of the Democrats call the president a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country.

SWAN: Was birtherism racist?

KUSHNER: Um, look I wasn’t really involved in that.

SWAN: I know you weren’t. Was it racist?

KUSHNER: Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.

SWAN: I know you weren’t. Was it racist?

KUSHNER: I know who the president is, and I have not seen anything in him that is racist. So, again, I was not involved in that.

SWAN: Did you wish he didn’t do that?

KUSHNER: Like I said, I was not involved in that. That was a long time ago.

That’s 4-0, The Washington Post noted—Four instances in which Kushner emphasized that he hadn’t personally participated in Trump’s effort to question the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president, and zero instances in which he denied the entire effort was racist.

Kushner’s insistence that this “was a long time ago” is also pretty difficult to digest. For those who might have forgotten the 2016 campaign, Trump’s birtherism charge made a comeback and lingered for weeks before he eventually backed off — kind of, the news outlet said. But not before he had appealed repeatedly to his base.

Michelle Obama reserved some of the harshest words in her 2018 autobiography, Becoming, for this saga. “The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed,” she said. “But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks.”

According to the Post, “He showed the GOP base, much of which embraced the bogus theory, that he was willing to stick by a birther campaign that riled them up and drove the establishment crazy. It was the first big conspiracy theory of his conspiracy theory-laden political career.”

And that first big success has led to Trump’s more recent disparagement of Muslims, Gold Star parents, Hispanics, Haiti and Africa as “shXthole countries,” “people who were captured in the war,” and even Meghan Markle.

With that in mind, Jonathan Swan’s questions are effectively answered.

Research contact: @jonathanvswan

Tillerson testifies that Putin outmaneuvered Trump at Hamburg summit

May 24, 2019

On Thursday, May 23, President Donald Trump lambasted former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—calling him “dumb as a rock” on Twitter—following his seven hours of testimony before members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee the day before.

Tillerson, whom Trump fired by tweet in March 2018, told the committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin was better prepared than Trump for a meeting in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017—putting the U.S. president at a key disadvantage during that first tête-à-tête, The Washington Post reported.

The two-hour conversation between the world leaders, which was not the “get-to-know-you” session expected by Trump, covered a full range of geopolitical issues.

“We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,” a Foreign Affairs Committee aide told the Post. “There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.”

Trump fired back on Twitter, characterizing Tillerson as a man who was “totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State, [and] made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin.”

Trump added, “I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!”

According to the Post, in the past, Trump, has played down the importance of preparation—saying his gut instinct and ability to read a room are paramount for a successful summit.

“I don’t think I have to prepare very much,” Trump said ahead of his historic first meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un last year. “It’s about attitude, it’s about willingness to get things done. So this isn’t a question of preparation, it’s a question of whether or not people want it to happen, and we’ll know that very quickly.”

In another rebuttal to Tillerson, the Post reported, Trump noted that Tillerson’s replacement, Mike Pompeo, is “doing a great job” and “agrees with my values.”

“Such a positive difference!” Trump added.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Kudlow gets castigated by president after telling truth about tariffs

May 16, 2019

Truth-teller Larry Kudlow is in the administration doghouse this week. Donald Trump reportedly castigated his chief economic adviser after Kudlow contradicted the president publicly on Fox News Sunday—saying everyday Americans would be hurt by tariffs the extra $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods that the White House imposed on May 10, The Hill said.

An unidentified White House official told The Washington Post that the president and Kudlow spoke after the aide’s talk show appearance.

“Trump called Larry, and they had it out,” said the official, according to the newspaper, which added that two other sources described the exchange as cordial.

Other sources recounted that Trump repeatedly told Kudlow during the conversation  “not [to] worry about” the consequences of tariffs on U.S. businesses.

Kudlow’s remarks contradicting the president came during an interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace, who pressed him about the impact of tariffs.

“In fact, both sides will pay in these things, and of course it depends,” Kudlow told Wallace.

“The Chinese will suffer [gross domestic product] losses and so forth with respect to a diminishing export market and goods that they may need,” Kudlow added.

Trump, however, has publicly defended his trade strategy, writing on Twitter that there is “no reason” U.S. consumers should feel the effect of tariffs.

Their [sic] is no reason for the U.S. Consumer to pay the Tariffs, which take effect on China today,” he said on Twitter. “This has been proven recently when only 4 points were paid by the U.S., 21 points by China because China subsidizes product to such a large degree. Also, the Tariffs can be completely avoided if you [buy] from a non-Tariffed Country, or you buy the product inside the USA (the best idea).”

Research contact: @thehill

Over 700 former federal prosecutors sign statement asserting that Trump obstructed justice

May 10, 2019

More than 720 former federal prosecutors who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations have signed on to a statement asserting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings would have produced obstruction charges against Donald Trump—if he weren’t currently president.

The DOJ Alumni Statement is the product of Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit “with an urgent mission: to prevent our democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.”

The statement—signed by myriad former career government employees as well as high-profile political appointees—offers a rebuttal to Attorney General William Barr’s determination, written in a four-page summary to Congress, that the evidence Mueller uncovered was “not sufficient” to establish that Trump committed a crime, The Washington Post reported on May 6.

Mueller had declined to say one way or the other whether Trump should have been charged—citing a Justice Department legal opinion that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, as well as concerns about the fairness of accusing someone for whom there can be no court proceeding, the news outlet said.

“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” the former federal prosecutors wrote.

“We emphasize that these are not matters of close professional judgment,” they added. “Of course, there are potential defenses or arguments that could be raised in response to an indictment of the nature we describe here ….But, to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice—the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution— runs counter to logic and our experience.”

The statement is notable for the number of people who signed it—720 as of May 7—and the positions and political affiliations of some on the list. It was posted online Monday afternoon; those signing it did not explicitly address what, if anything, they hope might happen next, the Post noted.

Among the high-profile signers are Bill Weld, a former U.S. attorney and Justice Department official in the Reagan administration who is challenging Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination; Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration; John Martin, a former U.S. attorney and federal judge appointed to his posts by Republican presidents; Paul Rosenzweig, who served as senior counsel to independent counsel Ken Starr; and Jeffrey Harris, who worked as the principal assistant to Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was at the Justice Department in the Reagan administration.

Weld told the DC-based newspaper that, by the time he reviewed the statement, it already had more than 100 signatures, and he affixed his name because he had concluded the evidence “goes well beyond what is required to support criminal charges of obstruction of justice.”

Research contact: @protctdemocracy

Schiff says Barr misled the American public and ‘should step down’

May 2, 2019

The attorney general of the United States is a liar and he should resign. So said the Chairman Adam Schiff  (D-California) of the House Intelligence Committee on May 1, following the release to The Washington Post of a March 25 letter written by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In that correspondence, the Russia investigator voiced grave concerns about the nature of the four-page summary of his team’s report written by AG William Barr and released the day before.

“The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions,” Mueller wrote in the letter, which he also saved to his files for posterity.

“We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25,” Mueller continued, noting, “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

The special counsel went on to urge the attorney general to distribute the executive summaries of the report prepared in advance by his team. “Release at this time would alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would anser congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation,” he said.

Mueller also followed up his correspondence with a call to Barr, during which he expressed similar concerns.

However, not only did Barr refuse to release the executive summaries in a “piecemeal” fashion, but, according to a May 1 report by the Post, “he disclaimed knowledge of the thinking of Special Counsel Robert Mueller” during two separate, back-to-back hearings on April 9 and April 10.

“No, I don’t,” Barr said, when asked by Representative Charlie Crist (D-Florida) whether he knew what was behind reports that members of Mueller’s team were frustrated by the attorney general’s summary of their top-level conclusions.

“I don’t know,” he said the next day, when asked by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) whether Mueller supported his finding that there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that President Trump had obstructed justice.

Now, Schiff has a case against AG Barr:  “I think his statement is deliberately false and misleading, and yes, most people would consider that to be a lie,” Schiff said on CBS This Morning, as reported by The Hill.

“Look, there’s no sugar- coating this, I think he should step down,” Schiff said. “It’s hard, I think, for the country to have confidence in the top law enforcement official in the country if he’s asked a direct question as he was and he gives a directly false answer, so this is serious business.”

“After two years and work and investigation implicating the president of the United States, for the attorney general to mislead the public for an entire month before releasing that report is inexcusable.” 

Schiff is the highest-ranking Democrat on Capitol Hill so far to call for Barr to step down. He follows Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s call for Barr to resign.

Tuesday’s revelation upped the ante for Barr’s appearance Wednesday morning in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and led to a cavalcade of criticism from House and Senate Democrats, The Hill reported.

“The Special Counsel’s concerns reflect our own. The Attorney General should not have taken it upon himself to describe the Special Counsel’s findings in a light more favorable to the President. It was only a matter of time before the facts caught up to him,” Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Tuesday, demanding that Barr hand over Mueller’s letter to Congress by 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

According to Politico, in a separate statement on Wednesday, on CNN claimed Barr’s statements might be considered perjury “for an ordinary citizen.”

“It’s worse when it comes from the attorney general of the United States because it means the public cannot have confidence in what he says,” Schiff said. “It means that we cannot have confidence in how he administers justice.”

And in a separate tweet, Schiff wrote, “No one can place any reliance on what Barr says. We need to hear from Mueller himself.”

Research contact: @RepAdamSchiff

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a Wing ‘air carrier,’ now approved by the FAA

April 25, 2019

Logistics has gone upwardly mobile: The Federal Aviation Administration has certified Wing—a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Mountain View, California-based Google—to operate as an airline, in a first for U.S. drone delivery companies, Wing reported on Medium on April 23.

Wing, which began as a Google X project, has been testing its autonomous drones in southwest Virginia and elsewhere.Now, it plans on launching its package-delivery service within months out of a Blacksburg, Virginia, work site.

“This is an important step for the FAA and the drone industry in the United States; the result of years of work to safely integrate drones into the national airspace,” the company said. We’re grateful for the vision of the administration, the Department of Transportation, and the FAA for creating the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP) to advance the drone industry in the United States.”

“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential,” said Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

Company executives said they plan to expand to other parts of Virginia and around the nation, although the timeline for that remains unclear, The Washington Post reported. Uber, UPS and other companies also are working on securing related approvals from federal officials, who have been pushing to expand drone use—even as concerns about security and privacy remain.

Wing executives said they’ll ask residents and businesses in southwestern Virginia what they want delivered, as they have in Australia, where the company received permission to expand operations. Over-the-counter medicines and food are in the mix.

“In the short term, you look at what people do every day, especially people with really busy schedules or parents with young children who have a lot of demands on their time,” Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess told the Post. “Getting what you need late at night or “a healthy meal delivered, hot and fresh, in just a few minutes, can make a pretty transformative impact in quality of life,” he said.

As for how neighbors’ quality of life might be affected by buzzing next-door deliveries, the company said its drones “are quieter than a range of noises you would experience in a suburb, but they make a unique sound that people are unlikely to be familiar with.” Wing said it is working to develop “new, quieter and lower-pitched propellers.”

Wing also has emphasized the importance of community feedback and cooperation with local authorities, the DC-based news outlet said. Before launching Wing’s commercial service in Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech, and neighboring Christiansburg later this year, Burgess said, company executives are planning surveys and other outreach, including decidedly analog efforts such as “putting fliers in peoples’ mailboxes and even door-knocking and holding town hall meetings,” Burgess said.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Who’s minding the store? As vacancies spread across Trump administration, Congress grows concerned

February 5, 2019

More than two years into President Donald Trump’s administration, Congress is becoming increasingly troubled about his lightweight leadership team—and lack of vetted, permanent power players.

There is office space available nearly everywhere inside the Beltway, and nobody is filling it: The president has an acting chief of staff, attorney general, defense secretary, interior secretary, Office of Management and Budget director and Environmental Protection Agency chief, The Washington Post reported on February 3.

Indeed, the news outlet says, in order to deal with the number of vacancies in the upper ranks of departments, agencies have been relying on novel and legally questionable personnel moves that could leave the administration’s policies open to court challenges.

The lack of permanent leaders even has started to alarm top Republicans,who are pressing for key posts to be filled.

“It’s a lot; it’s way too many,” Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said to the news outlet about the acting positions in Cabinet agencies. “You want to have confirmed individuals there because they have a lot more authority to be able to make decisions and implement policy when you have a confirmed person in that spot.”

By any standard, the Post reports, Trump’s administration lags behind its predecessors when it comes to filling top posts throughout the government — even though the president’s party has controlled the Senate for his entire time in office.

The Partnership for Public Service, which has tracked nominations as far back as 30 years, estimates that only 54% of Trump’s civilian executive branch nominations have been confirmed, compared to 77% under President Barack Obama.

“The Trump administration is slower to fill jobs and has higher turnover than any administration we have records for,” said the group’s CEO, Max Stier.

Specifically  according to an analysis conducted jointly by the Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post,  and posted on February 4, the White House has not bothered to nominate people for 150 out of 705 key Senate-confirmed positions.

Three departments are facing a particularly high number of vacancies: Only 41% of the Interior and Justice departments’ Senate-confirmed posts are filled, and just 43% of these positions have been filled at the Labor Department.

The third-highest ranking position at Justice — which, like Interior, has been operating without a permanent secretary for weeks — has been vacant for nearly a year, with no nominee in sight.

“If you think about our government as a manager of critical risk, we’ve upped our risk,” Stier said.

One particular vacancy senators have fixated on is at the Pentagon, where former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned in December after clashing with Trump over his decision to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria. Patrick Shanahan has been serving in an acting capacity since January 1.

Some Senate Republicans have lobbied on behalf of potential Mattis successors. In a private phone call shortly after Mattis announced his impending departure, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) urged Trump to nominate Heather Wilson, the current Air Force secretary who would be the first woman to head the Pentagon.

“We absolutely need to have a permanent nominee,” Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a veteran who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Post. “I do have great confidence in Patrick Shanahan, I know he is the acting secretary right now. But I do feel that in order to reassure allies and also to push back on our adversaries, it’s very important that we have a permanent secretary of defense.”

Trump does not share the urgency of some in his party to name permanent Cabinet secretaries, largely because he sees leaving people as interim to his benefit. The president has told others it makes the secretaries more “responsive,” an administration official said.

But how long can officials who have not been nominated, or approved by the Senate, continue to serve?

A Congressional Research Service report published in July concluded that “an action taken by any person who” is not complying with the Vacancies Act “in the performance of any function or duty of a vacant office . . . shall have no force or effect.” While this position has not been tested in court, several legal experts said that it at least raises a question about the durability of policies undertaken by officials who lack Senate approval.

Nina Mendelson, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, told the Post that the strategy Interior officials and others have taken of delegating many responsibilities to unconfirmed officials was “legally problematic” because it conflicts with the intent and language in the Vacancies Act.

“Congress specifically sought to limit this sort of strategy,” Mendelson said. As a result, she said, “Legally binding actions taken by these officials would be subject to challenge.”

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she is concerned with the lack of a confirmed interior secretary, as well as vacancies atop the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.

“When you think about it, what was the big initiative at the end of last year? Let’s do something with park maintenance,” Murkowski said. “Would sure be great to have the head of the parks in order to execute this initiative. Yup. It worries me.”

For the moment, Trump’s deputies continue to come up with inventive ways to fill openings. On Monday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue named three presidential nominees to senior leadership posts in his department, saying that the last Congress failed to act on their appointments and he wanted them to start working while they awaited action from the new Congress.

“At USDA, we’ve been engaged in fulfilling our mission without all of our players on the field, so we want to get these strong, qualified leaders in the game,” Perdue said.

Research contact: juliet.eilperin@washpost.com

Getting all your ducts in a row? Don’t’ clean them!

January 30, 2019

Today, when many of us are eating clean and trying to live green, we feel very virtuous about getting rid of the “gunk” in our bodies and our lives. Therefore, when a company calls and offers to eliminate the accumulated dust, soot, pollen, mold, and debris in our residential air ducts, we may jump at the deal as a way to banish indoor pollution (and address secondary issues such as allergies, headaches, fatigue, and respiratory illnesses).

After all, if our ducts are clean, all that air flowing out of those vents should come out clean, too, right? Well, actually, no, according to a recent report by The Washington Post.

Although duct-cleaning companies may insist that what it offers is essential for your health, the evidence does not support the claims.

Even if your ducts truly are dirty, cleaning them probably won’t provide any measurable benefits. In fact, the little independent research performed on duct cleaning indicates that the process stirs up so much dust that it creates a bigger problem than it solves.

Indeed, a study conducted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measured dust levels and HVAC system efficiency in test homes during a one-week period during the cooling season and found duct cleaning did not significantly improve dust levels or system performance.

Based on that report and other independent research, the EPA’s official advisory on duct cleaning concludes: “Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g. dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space….Moreover, there is no evidence that a light amount of household dust or other particulate matter in air ducts poses any risk to your health.”

The fact is, the Post says, that dust that settles in your ventilation system generally stays where it is—unlikely to become airborne unless disturbed. Under most circumstances, the dust is inert and harmless, and stirring it up with cleaning equipment actually creates bigger issues.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a government agency, conducted a similar study in the 1990s. After testing 33 homes in Montreal before and after duct cleaning, the researchers found that there was no significant improvement in air quality—and that duct cleaning, alone, did not improve airflow or energy efficiency.

In some cases, measured particle levels actually increased immediately after a cleaning. In other cases, particle levels decreased immediately after cleaning but returned to previous levels within weeks.

Like the EPA, the CMHC concluded that duct cleaning is unnecessary: “Ideally, the inside surface will be shiny and bright after cleaning. Duct cleaning may be justifiable to you personally for that very reason: you may not want to have your house air circulated through a duct passage that is not as clean as the rest of the house. However, duct cleaning will not usually change the quality of the air you breathe, nor will it significantly affect air flows or heating costs.”

Instead, experts recommend frequently changing air filters as the best way to keep dust, allergens, and other particles out of your home. With a newly installed system, or a system in a home you’ve just moved into, check your filter monthly to determine how quickly it gets dirty at different times of the year. Most should be replaced every two or three months.

In general, consider duct cleaning only in response to specific, identifiable problems. For example, the EPA suggests having air ducts cleaned if there is visible evidence of:

  • Substantial mold growth,
  • Infestation of insects or rodents, or
  • Substantial deposits of dust or debris (if registers were not sealed during a renovation project, for example).

If anyone in your household has specific health concerns, such as allergies or asthma, consult your physician first. It’s important to identify the problem so your doctor can suggest alternatives to duct cleaning. Start by identifying whether your ducts are part of the problem (they probably aren’t) and whether getting them cleaned will help (it probably won’t).

Finally, if you suspect a mold problem—either because of visible growth or a musty smell consistently coming from supply vents — the experts generally recommend  tracking down and eliminating moisture problem, itself, whether it originates under a sink or part of a heating and cooling system.

Research contact: @washingtonpost