United States President Donald Trump is moving aggressively to challenge the authority and independence of agency watchdogs overseeing his administration, including removing the inspector general tasked with overseeing the $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package that passed US Congress with bipartisan support.
In four days, Trump has fired one 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 the coronavirus funds.
The actions have sent shock waves through the close-knit network of watchdog officials in government, creating open conflict between a president reflexively resistant to outside criticism and an oversight community tasked with rooting out fraud, misconduct and abuse.
The most recent act threatens to upend scrutiny of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue effort now under way, setting the stage for a major clash between Trump, government watchdogs and Democrats who are demanding oversight of the vast funds being pumped into the American economy.
“We’re seeing since Friday a wrecking ball across the IG community,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group.
The latest broadside came on Tuesday when the Department of Defense revealed that Trump had removed acting inspector general Glenn Fine, an experienced official, from his role as head of a coronavirus spending oversight board. It was unclear who might replace Fine, who also lost his title as acting inspector general.