Lawmakers rip FAA for not disclosing documents on Boeing Max

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Michael Stumo holds a sign displaying photographs of the individuals who were killed in the March 10, 2019, crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, as Federal Aviation Administration administrator Stephen Dickson testifies during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in Washington. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

Senators of both parties lashed out at the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday, accusing it of stonewalling their attempts to understand how the agency approved a Boeing jet that later suffered two deadly crashes and whether it retaliates against whistleblowers in its ranks.

Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said the FAA has failed to respond to more than half of his committee's requests for documents, some of them made more than a year ago. He said the agency hasn't turned over anything since April.

Wicker said he holds Stephen Dickson, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the FAA, personally responsible for creating an adversarial relationship with Congress.

“It is hard not to conclude your team at the FAA has deliberately attempted to keep us in the dark,” Wicker told Dickson during a committee hearing.

Dickson disputed Wicker's description of the FAA, but he promised “to redouble our efforts” to cooperate with Congress.

Hours later, the FAA said it has given Wicker’s committee 7,400 pages of documents and responded to many of his questions but couldn’t answer others because that could interfere with ongoing investigations by several federal agencies.

The committee's top Democrat, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington — where Chicago-based Boeing builds the long-grounded 737 Max — joined Wicker in criticizing FAA's failure to turn over documents. Other Democrats accused FAA of having a culture of secrecy.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Dickson whether Boeing lied to the FAA about safety concerns around the Boeing plane. Dickson avoided answering directly but agreed that the certification process didn't work perfectly.