Amidst the raging Coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of over 12,200 Americans and counting, President Donald Trump has rushed to offer political protection to his allies yet again. Trump has removed Glenn Fine from his roles as the acting inspector general overseeing the Department of Defense and as the chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, the latter of which he was first appointed to barely a week ago at this point. That committee is part of the Democrat-led push to ensure oversight for the distribution of the trillions in dollars in economic relief that’s been approved to deal with the upheaval of attempts to stem the spread of the Coronavirus. Trump has already publicly complained about that oversight amidst his administration’s own attempts to prioritize a personal political agenda.
Now, Inside Defense reports:
‘Fine, who has been acting DOD IG since 2016, will revert to his position as principal deputy inspector general, while Sean O’Donnell, the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general, will serve as the acting DOD IG in addition to his current duties at EPA.’
Trump has nominated Jason Abend of Customs and Border Patrol as a more long-term inspector general for the Defense Department.
Condemnation for Trump’s self-serving personnel shuffle quickly poured in.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) insisted:
‘Pres. Trump’s corrupt action to sideline Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine—who was newly-appointed as chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee—only strengthens our resolve to hold the admin accountable and enforce the strict oversight provisions of the CARES Act.’
Pres. Trump’s corrupt action to sideline Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine—who was newly-appointed as chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee—only strengthens our resolve to hold the admin accountable and enforce the strict oversight provisions of the CARES Act. https://t.co/tk8aHrGXEo
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 7, 2020
As for those outside of government, CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers added:
‘This is horrible news. Trump has fired Glenn Fine because Fine is what all IGs are supposed to be: independent, capable, and fair. This is a transparent attempt to undermine the ability of IGs to expose fraud and abuse by Trump and others. Appalling.’
This is horrible news. Trump has fired Glenn Fine because Fine is what all IGs are supposed to be: independent, capable, and fair. This is a transparent attempt to undermine the ability of IGs to expose fraud and abuse by Trump and others. Appalling. https://t.co/HIfG3Sm6hV
— Jennifer Rodgers (@JenGRodgers) April 7, 2020
As others have noted, Fine’s abrupt firing is not the first recent step against government oversight that Trump has taken. He also fired the intelligence community’s inspector general, and he’s also been freaking out over a report of basic facts of medical supply issues around the U.S. from the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general. Trump called that latter report “fake,” but it’s not fake. It’s basic, duly reported reality.
Why didn’t the I.G., who spent 8 years with the Obama Administration (Did she Report on the failed H1N1 Swine Flu debacle where 17,000 people died?), want to talk to the Admirals, Generals, V.P. & others in charge, before doing her report. Another Fake Dossier!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2020
Trump has also already explicitly attempted to curtail oversight of Coronavirus financial relief efforts. Around the time that he signed the most recent package into law, he claimed that his administration would try to block the relevant inspector general’s office from reporting directly to Congress if they failed to secure information that they were after from the administration.
There’s still a long way to go to get out of the Coronavirus crisis in the first place, but some have already suggested a 9/11 style independent investigative commission to look into response failures. Trump spent weeks and months dismissing concern about the Coronavirus, seemingly hoping to prop up his public image at the expense of readiness that could have helped save American lives.