‘I’ll be the oversight…’
(Liberty Headlines) President Donald Trump has removed the inspector general tapped to chair a special oversight board for the $2.2 trillion economic relief package on the coronavirus.
As he faces the need for streamlined processes in response to the pandemic, Trump—long suspicious of the deep-state federal bureaucracy’s efforts to undermine him—has taken several steps recently to confront the government watchdogs tasked with oversight of the executive branch.
Theoretically, the inspectors general are presumed to be politically neutral. However, some have overstepped the scope of their authority in efforts to oppose the president.
In the past four days, he has fired the inspector general tied to his impeachment, castigated another he felt was overly critical of the coronavirus response and sidelined a third meant to safeguard against wasteful spending of funds for businesses in economic distress.
“We’re seeing since Friday a wrecking ball across the IG community,” claimed Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight.
On Friday, Trump fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community; and on Monday assailed a health and human services official who criticized the administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
On Tuesday, Trump removed Glenn Fine, the acting Defense Department inspector general who had been selected by peers last month to oversee the economic aid package.
Appointed by former President Bill Clinton, Fine was the Justice Department inspector general for much of the George W. Bush administration, as well as several years of the early Barack Obama administration.
Trump’s latest move threatens to upend the rigorous oversight that Democrats in Congress demanded for the huge sums of money being pumped into the American economy because of the virus—even as they, themselves, made their best effort to laden the spending bill with partisan pork from their radical agenda wish-list.
It’s also part of a broader conflict between Trump and his nonstop parade of critics. After having indulged them through a series of now-debunked political smear campaigns, the stress of preserving the nation’s health and minimizing the mortality rate have visibly worn on the president, who has taken to berating journalists also for their unfair questions during his daily briefings.
Yet, Trump’s actions “only undermine the effectiveness of the pandemic response” legislation and the ability of inspectors general to do their job, Brian said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., one of Trump’s most prominent attackers, criticized his removal of Fine, claiming the president was moving to “undermine oversight.”
Trump has scoffed at the notion that the highly partisan Democrats can lead any measure of effective non-politicized oversight, while declaring some of their overtures to be unconstitutional.
“I’ll be the oversight,” he declared as lawmakers were finalizing the rescue plan.
Pelosi, herself, had moved recently to enhance the partisan oversight process by appointing House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-SC, to oversee a coronavirus response committee, even after Clyburn spoke recently to his House Democratic colleagues about the potential to capitalize on the pandemic to achieve their agenda.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also condemned Trump’s action.
“President Trump is abusing the coronavirus pandemic to eliminate honest and independent public servants because they are willing to speak truth to power and because he is so clearly afraid of strong oversight,” Schumer claimed in a statement, invoking a term popularly used by the Left as coded language for their identity-politics agenda that embraces moral relativism over universal, fact-based truth.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led House Democrats’ partisan impeachment efforts and the subsequent Senate trial, told The Associated Press that Trump’s actions were “designed to neuter any kind of oversight of his actions and that of the administration during a time of national crisis, when trillions of dollars are being allocated to help the American people.”
Schiff is seeking a commission similar to that established after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to probe the coronavirus response.
Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general and chair of a council of watchdogs, had moved quickly last month to appoint Fine the head of the new coronavirus oversight board.
But Fine will no longer be able to serve in the role because Trump has nominated a replacement inspector general at the Pentagon and appointed an acting one to serve in Fine’s place, according to an email from an assistant Defense Department inspector general that was obtained by The Associated Press.
The demotion disqualifies Fine from serving on the oversight board, which was created by Congress to be the nexus of oversight for coronavirus funding. He will instead revert to the position of principal deputy inspector general.
House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., claimed Trump’s actions were a “direct insult” to American taxpayers.
“President Trump has been engaged in an assault against independent Inspectors General since last Friday in order to undermine oversight of his chaotic and deficient response to the coronavirus crisis,” Maloney said.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a longtime whistleblower advocate, tweeted at Trump not to view inspectors general as critics, though he didn’t mention Fine by name. He said the officials hold the federal bureaucracy accountable.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press