President recently ousted two inspectors general, including one tasked with leading oversight of coronavirus relief law
Donald Trumps abrupt ousting of two veteran watchdogs has prompted fears the scandal-prone US president is purging people from government who have oversight of fraud, waste and abuse.
The moves also come at a time when a global pandemic and resulting mass unemployment crisis has prompted a multitrillion-dollar economic rescue effort, much of which is aimed at helping some of Americas largest companies.
Ex-watchdogs dubbed inspectors general plus top Democrats have voiced alarm at Trumps removal last week of an acting IG at the Pentagon slated to lead a new oversight panel for the $2.2tn coronavirus relief law. The move came just days after Trump axed the intelligence community IG who had alerted Congress to a whistleblower complaint precipitating Trumps impeachment.
Trump also drew fire for tapping a White House lawyer involved in fighting impeachment as a special IG to oversee a $500bn corporate bailout piece of the $2.2tn law. Days before, Trump had used the signing statement for the law to blunt two newly created IG posts, suggesting he would decide what information Congress receives about the aid package.
Trumps sudden oustings of the two well-respected watchdogs, Michael Atkinson, the IG for the intelligence community, and Glenn Fine, the acting IG for the Pentagon, sparked special concerns given their timing and apparent political motivations.
Trumps ousting of Fine, who was recently picked by his fellow IGs to run a critical oversight panel for the $2.2tn law, is seen as a broad slap at any oversight on the president and his administration since it rendered Fine ineligible to lead the watchdog panel.
Trumps motives in firing Atkinson prompted other worries. After initially saying he had simply lost confidence in Atkinson, Trump used a pandemic press briefing the next day to unleash an angry torrent at Atkinsons handling of the whistleblower complaint, slamming him as not a big Trump fan.
Trumps antipathy to IG watchdogs was displayed again at a pandemic briefing last week when he was asked about a report by the health and human services IG revealing that hospitals faced widespread shortages of face masks, and severe test shortages.
Providing no evidence, Trump dismissed the report as just wrong, and the next day labeled it another fake dossier.