For the second time in less than a week, President Trump has removed an inspector general from his post. Glenn Fine, the Acting Inspector General for the Department of Defense was removed from his temporary post this afternoon. Fine was also the head of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.
Politico reported that Fine, who had been selected by a panel of inspectors general to head the oversight board, was being replaced by Sean W. O’Donnell. O’Donnell is the Acting IG for the Environmental Protection Agency and will now handle both roles.
At this point, it isn’t clear who will be selected to chair the oversight committee.
Fine is being returned to his permanent posting as principal deputy inspector general at the Pentagon. His removal from his role as the acting IG for the DOD makes him ineligible to head the oversight committee, however.
The White House has not given a reason for Fine’s removal.
Late Friday night, the president announced his intention to fire the IG for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson. Atkinson had played a pivotal role in the Ukraine whistleblower scandal by vetting the initial whistleblower claim. Michael Horowitz, the DOJ inspector general, said on the weekend that Atkinson’s “actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint… [were] done ‘by the book’ and consistent with the law.”
The president has also attacked a third inspector general recently. Yesterday, Mr. Trump sharply criticized Christi Grimm, the Health and Human Services inspector general, who had issued a scathing report that showed that the government had sent out-of-date supplies to hospitals and issued confusing guidance to health workers.
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee was created by the recent Coronavirus relief bill to provide oversight for $500 billion earmarked for business loans. The Trump Administration and Republicans had resisted oversight of what Democrats called a “slush fund” to be administered by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.
Even as he signed the bill into law, President Trump attacked the oversight provisions in a signing statement, saying, “I do not understand, and my administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the [special inspector general for pandemic recovery (SIGPR)] to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision.”
In other words, the president wanted an inspector general created to hold his administration accountable to report directly to him. Now, he has removed the person who was independently selected to head the oversight committee.
President Trump should face some hard questions about why he removed Fine as well as why he is so opposed to congressional oversight of half a trillion dollars of taxpayer funds. Republicans should also ask themselves hard questions about how they can continue to support a president who tries so hard to avoid being held accountable.