Trump Tries To Overrule Oversight Of Slush Fund

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Even in the midst of a deadly pandemic, President Donald Trump is refusing to let up with his insistent opposition to even the slightest investigation. In a statement issued this Friday in conjunction with his signing of a huge Coronavirus relief funding package, he insisted that his administration would seek to keep a newly created inspector general position from reporting directly to Congress without presidential oversight. The inspector general, whose position is authorized for a five-year period, is meant to oversee the distribution of at least half a trillion dollars in financial support for businesses around the country, which was included in the relief legislation.

Referring to the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR), Trump insisted:

‘I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause.’

The inspector general, according to the provisions laid out in the legislation, would report directly to Congress in the event that the administration refuses to hand over any information that they request regarding the state of the huge business support fund that they’re supposed to be supervising. Trump, in line with his past opposition to even the slightest Congressional oversight, wants to keep those direct Congressional reports from occurring.

Along those lines, Trump also insisted that his administration was opposed to the legislation’s demand for consultation with Congress in the selection of the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director for the new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. He said his administration “will treat this provision as hortatory but not mandatory” — which really does seem to sum up the administration’s approach to a slew of important legal provisions.

One prominent Congresswoman, California Democrat Katie Porter, straightforwardly insisted in response:

‘This is unacceptable. The CARES Act was a bipartisan deal, and the President was in negotiations. With $2 trillion in federal spending, oversight is not an elective; it’s an imperative. Taxpayers deserve better.’

The creation of the inspector general position that Trump is attempting to undermine was a specific sticking point for Democrats. As negotiations over the relief package proceeded, they refused to proceed without the inspector general’s inclusion because of what they called the creation of a corporate “slush fund” otherwise. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin specifically agreed to the creation of the inspector general, but with Trump’s latest statement, that negotiating process is getting upended.

Besides the loans for businesses, the newly signed-into-law Coronavirus relief legislation includes provisions like a dramatic expansion of unemployment benefits that adds $600 a week to the amount workers around the country can get and the delivery of direct checks to large swaths of Americans apart from the unemployment benefits system. There’s already talk of another relief package to follow this one up, pending precisely how long the Coronavirus crisis lasts, although this latest relief plan is one of the largest financial bailout attempts in the history of the United States. And it’s needed — millions upon millions of Americans have ended up newly unemployed recently.