President Donald Trump’s ongoing refusal to install permanent Inspectors General was an alarming affront to accountability, but his recent interest in filling these vacancies with loyalists, might prove even more insidious. Another curious detail of Trump’s IG activity is that he’s nominated several Department of Justice lawyers to become permanent IGs despite their relative lack of experience compared to the acting IGs they will replace if confirmed. Given Attorney General Bill Barr’s willingness to undermine democratic norms, there is a compelling need for the public to know if the DOJ is involved in placing Trump loyalists into Departmental IG offices, which are meant to conduct independent oversight into the government.
In the last six weeks, OIGs of the Department of Education (ED), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Department of Transportation (DOT) have seen this trend acutely. At ED, Trump announced his nomination of DOJ trial attorney Andrew DeMello, whose barely ten years of experience as a licensed lawyer pales in comparison to the more than 30 years of experience in oversight and investigations of acting ED IG Sandra Bruce. At the DOT and HHS, DOJ lawyers have also been nominated to fill IG positions where they have significantly less experience than their predecessors.
CREW has requested DOJ communications on IG vacancies, removals, nominations, and reports.
Given President Trump’s explicit desire to purge the IG community and replace them with nominees that he perceives to be loyal to him, the public needs to know whether DOJ is giving Trump the means to achieve his goal of biasing supposedly apolitical and independent bodies. If Bill Barr’s DOJ is complicit in undermining government accountability by packing IG positions with loyalists from DOJ, it would fit right into Barr’s pattern of facilitating the President’s efforts to undermine democratic norms.