WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump has removed the independent watchdog overseeing the management of the country’s $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package, the second inspector general he has ousted in recent days.
Trump pushed out Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general at the Pentagon for the past four years, from the coronavirus spending oversight role on Monday, a position that Fine’s peers among government inspectors general had selected him for.
Fine was told Monday he was being replaced by Sean O’Donnell, currently the acting inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency, to also be the acting Defense Department watchdog.
With Fine removed from the top Pentagon inspector general posting, he was no longer eligible to head the oversight of the coronavirus spending, hundreds of billions of dollars being sent to U.S. corporations whose economic fortunes have been severely impacted by the virus. Fine remains in the principal deputy inspector general position at the Pentagon.
The Democratic chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, called Fine's removal "a direct insult to the American taxpayers – of all political stripes – who want to make sure their tax dollars are not squandered on wasteful boondoggles, incompetence or political favors."
She added, “President Trump has been engaged in an assault against independent inspectors general since last Friday in order to undermine oversight of his chaotic and deficient response to the coronavirus crisis."
Late last week, Trump fired Michael Atkinson as the inspector general of the intelligence community. That decision, Trump acknowledged, was a direct response to Atkinson having alerted congressional lawmakers to the existence of a whistleblower complaint about Trump pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to undertake an investigation of Trump’s likely opponent in November’s national presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The complaint led to a lengthy investigation of Trump, his impeachment and his eventual acquittal during a Senate trial.
“I am disappointed and saddened that President Trump has decided to remove me as the inspector general of the intelligence community because I did not have his ‘fullest confidence,’ ” Atkinson said in a seven-paragraph statement on Sunday. “It is hard not to think that the president’s loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial inspector general.”
Asked about his assessment of Atkinson, Trump said, “I thought he did a terrible job. Absolutely terrible. That man is a disgrace to IGs.”