Updated Apr 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill

Glenn Fine, acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense
Glenn Fine, acting Pentagon watchdog. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump on Monday replaced the Pentagon's acting inspector general Glenn Fine, who had been selected to chair the panel overseeing the rollout of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed last month, Politico first reported.

Why it matters: A group of independent federal watchdogs selected Fine to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, but Fine's removal from his Pentagon job prevents him from being able to serve in that position — since the law only allows sitting inspectors general to fill the role.

  • The group of inspectors general will now have to choose a new watchdog to lead the committee.
  • The White House named Environmental Protection Agency inspector general Sean O’Donnell to serve as the acting Pentagon inspector general in addition to his current post. Fine will return to his role as the Pentagon's principal deputy inspector general, a spokesperson told Politico.

The big picture: Sources close to Trump tell Axios' Jonathan Swan that they expect him to fire more inspectors general across his administration, after his Friday night removal of Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who alerted Congress to the complaint that triggered impeachment.

  • Conservative allies of the president have told him that these inspectors general are members of the "deep state" trying to undermine him, and Trump appears to have embraced that view.
  • On Monday, Trump rebuked a reporter at a coronavirus press briefing for asking about findings from the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general. He continued to attack the HHS inspector general on Twitter on Tuesday, claiming that she spent eight years with the Obama administration and calling her report "another Fake Dossier."
  • The HHS inspector general, Christi Grimm, has served as a federal watchdog in multiple administrations since 1999.

What they're saying: "Trump just fired the Inspector General overseeing the relief package. And threatened another who reported PPE shortages," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a tweet Tuesday.

  • "Inspectors General are charged with doing independent oversight and exposing corruption. Their job is to uncover the truth. Exactly why Trump fears them," Schiff added.
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