Under Cover of COVID: Trump’s Purge of the IGs

9 mins read

Update 5/30/2020: A fifth Inspector General was fired on May 16. Mitchell Behm, acting Transportation Department IG, was ousted from the agency in what House Democrats allege could be a possible “effort to undermine” the on-going investigation into Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s potential conflicts of interest in giving preferential treatment to projects in Kentucky. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). House Democrats have requested more information about Chao’s communications with the White House.

Under cover of COVID19, as well as his usual chaotic combination of lie/bully/brag, the current U.S. president continues to dismantle the government from within. The process has been so thorough and rapid-fire over the now more than three years of his presidency that it is often hard to keep up with. With the passage of the CARES Act—which apportions $2 trillion to be spent on small business relief, forgivable loans, direct payments to Americans and PPE for hospitals and health workers—there is just way too much money floating around an administration that has been less than transparent with the American people and continues to stonewall Congress on every possible attempt at oversight.

So when Donald Trump fires four Inspectors General over the course of six weeks, each and every tax-paying American should be very worried, both about the hows and whys of the way he is spending  your money.

On April 3, when Trump fired Michael Atkinson, Intelligence Community Inspector General and his own appointee, we could easily have said: We could have seen this coming. After all, this well-respected and nonpartisan professional was the person who made the decision to share the whistleblower complaint with lawmakers in Congress that later led to the president’s impeachment. It’s almost surprising that Atkinson’s firing didn’t take place right after Trump’s acquittal in the Senate—immediately thereafter a sort of purge of any Cabinet members seen as unloyal had already begun. But with the resignation of Joseph Maguire as Director of National Intelligence and his replacement with Trump sycophant Richard Grenell, the Intelligence Community is now certainly more bent to the will of a guy who likes to cheat and welcomes foreign influence into our elections right before…well, an upcoming election!  

Then, on April 7, came the firing of Glenn Fine, acting Inspector General of the Defense Department who only 8 days earlier had been appointed to the PRAC (Pandemic Response Accountability Committee) by Michael E. Horowitz. With a $2 trillion dollar spending act just passed, this dismissal should be ringing the alarm bells for a 4-alarm fire. IG Fine was replaced by Sean O’Donnell, Inspector General for the EPA who still remains in that position. It is rare but not unprecedented that IGs are required to do double duty but considering O’Donnell needs to run oversight on the spending of a huge sum of money, one has to ask how this position could not be full time. Of course, the effect of these firings, as well as leaving gaping holes in the oversight of this administration, is to frighten would-be whistleblowers and other IGs into submission

Next we go to May 1, which I’m sure was no fairytale for Christi Grimm, head IG for Health and Human Services when she was fired on Labor Day! As usual, the bully-in-chief wasted no time in berating her, both during a news conference and from his Twitter feed.  For what?  Why, for doing her job, of course! Grimm had created a report to help understand deficiencies in the crucial supplies of PPE for the nation’s frontline hospital workers. As always, the reality TV show president sees these as attacks on his image and ratings, instead of helpful ways to improve the government response in a time of national crisis. 

Last but certainly not least, on May 15 came the late-night firing of Steve Linick, Inspector General to the State Department, and apparently a firing that was done at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo himself! This action would be less appalling if, as suggested, the oversight was simply about Pompeo’s aides doing his personal bidding, but there is much more at stake here. IG Steve Linick had almost completed an investigation into illegal arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a move that had been censured by Congress but vetoed by the president and pushed through by the State Department with another so-called emergency declaration.  

As has often happened throughout the past 3½ years of this show, Republicans have raised a bit of fuss over these goings-on, and some have even become quite famous for expressing “concern.” (Looking at you, Susan Collins!) 

While the Linick firing is problematic enough to have solicited a letter to the president from Republican Chuck Grassley, these letters of admonition are often ignored or simply put into the “forget me file.” Fortunately, it has solicited even more action and an investigation into the matter from Democratic congressman Eliot Engel as well as new legislation from Senator Bob Menendez to help protect IGs.

While much damage has been done, the time is never too late to fight back. Since these are our tax dollars at work, it is only right that we have a say in assuring that there is proper oversight during the spending process! 

What can we do?

  • Call your Representatives and demand Congressional investigation into Trump’s repeated firing of Inspectors General. Ask them to support the investigation underway by Rep. Eliot Engel. 
  • Call your Senators and make sure they are supporting the new legislation by Senator Bob Menendez to protect Inspectors General.

Here’s a script you can use: “I am a concerned citizen calling about the recent firings of four Inspectors General by President Trump. I am especially concerned about the firing of IG Steve Linick, who was investigating unauthorized arms sales to Saudi Arabia. I urge you to support the investigation underway by Chairman Eliot Engel and the Foreign Affairs Committee as well as the new legislation by ranking member Bob Menendez of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

  • If you feel strongly enough, ask them to reinstate these Inspectors General.
  • Don’t let this story die with the news cycle—keep tweeting, posting and blogging about the lack of oversight in this administration and the rampant firings of the people who have been assigned to conduct that oversight!

And one more resource…

From: https://oversight.gov/ig-vacancies

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