President Donald Trump removed the inspector general set to probe corruption and provide oversight of the government’s massive response to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, the last sign of his disdain for any oversight of his administration.
The $2 trillion coronavirus response law, passed last month, set up a panel of 10 inspectors general to serve as watchdogs as the government tries to limit fraud, wrongdoing and mismanagement. That panel, dubbed the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, selected Fine — who was the acting Pentagon inspector general and is a former Justice Department inspector general — to lead them.
But on Tuesday, Trump removed Fine from his job as acting Pentagon inspector general, making him no longer eligible to lead the panel under the law. Trump named Sean O’Donnell, the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency, to fill the acting role at the Pentagon as well.
Trump’s move to oust Fine comes as the president rages against inspectors general throughout government. He fired the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, on Friday night, still angry over Atkinson’s handling on the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment.
Earlier this week, he questioned the independence of the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services after the watchdog released a report revealing supply shortages and testing delays at hospitals responding to the pandemic. Trump complained, without any basis, that the report was wrong and the top watchdog at HHS, Principal Deputy Inspector General Christi Grimm, was biased against him.
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