Trump Is Gutting the Inspector General System, and Most Republicans Don’t Care
The Trump administration’s dismantling of independent federal watchdogs continued late last Friday, as Trump removed State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was reportedly conducting at least two misconduct probes into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Politico also reported today that Linick had recently finished an investigation into a Pompeo aide and concluded she had likely failed to report allegations of workplace violence.
On Friday night Trump also replaced the acting inspector general at the Department of Transportation, who was investigating Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao—the wife of Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.)—for alleged favoritism in awarding contracts.
Friday’s moves follow a string of dismissals that congressional Democrats and government accountability groups say is a purge of the inspectors general system by the Trump administration. The president has then filled those watchdog positions with political allies.
“The president is essentially driving a semi-truck through the fundamental structure of inspectors general,” says Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a government accountability group.
In April, Trump fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community. Atkinson’s referral of a whistleblower complaint to Congress launched the Ukraine investigation and eventual impeachment of Trump, and the firing was widely seen as retaliation.
Trump also replaced Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, who was supposed to oversee the $2 trillion coronavirus aid package passed by Congress.
Inspectors general are independent offices that investigate waste, fraud, and abuse at federal agencies. They regularly audit agencies’ compliance with mundane rules and record-keeping, as well as investigate whistleblower complaints about misconduct.
Their investigative powers give them access to records and officials that the public and reporters don’t have, and as such, they fill an important role as watchdogs within the federal government. (Take, for just one example, a 2015 Justice Department Inspector General investigation that found that Drug Enforcement Administration agents assigned to South America were having sex par
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