President Trump playing musical chairs with Inspectors General (IG) means that oversight of the pandemic response is severely hindered. Specifically, Trump stripped the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) of leadership and weakened oversight of both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). The public deserves strong oversight over the trillions of taxpayer dollars being spent on the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and must understand any attempts by the administration to undermine that oversight.
On March 30, 2020, then-acting IG for the Department of Defense (DOD) Glenn Fine was appointed to serve as the chair of the PRAC, which Congress created to prevent and detect abuse of federal coronavirus funds. A week after Fine’s appointment, Trump named EPA IG Sean O’Donnell to serve as Acting DOD IG. The decision effectively removed Fine from his chairmanship of the PRAC, since only current IGs can serve in the position. To date, no new chair has been appointed. Critics have accused Trump of removing Fine in order to avoid strong oversight of federal spending.
CREW has requested all internal EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) documents and also communications with Trump and the White House on the appointment of O’Donnell to serve as Acting IG of DOD.
Environmental advocates have raised concerns that oversight of EPA will suffer due to O’Donnell’s now-divided responsibilities over both EPA and DOD. The requested records will provide insight into how the EPA OIG learned of the appointment and any concerns raised about overseeing two IG offices. Additionally, the records will shed light on whether the timing of O’Donnell’s appointment as Acting DOD IG was related to Fine’s appointment to chair the PRAC. This ongoing pattern of Trump attacking IGs and interfering in processes meant to keep him accountable to the public could mean that we might never know the extent of waste, fraud, or abuse of trillions of taxpayer dollars going to the coronavirus response.