Trump’s meddling with Inspector General nominations seems to be his latest attempt to avoid accountability, which could have dire effects on how people are receiving aid amidst a global pandemic.
Several of Trump’s nominations for critical Inspector General positions have strong political connections to Trump, raising concerns about their independence. For example, Trump nominated White House lawyer Brian Miller, who also defended Trump during his impeachment, to oversee the government’s coronavirus response. Additionally, the White House nominated Andrew De Mello to lead the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General despite De Mello’s minimal experience in oversight and in practicing law. Trump proposed these nominations the same day he fired Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General who informed Congress of the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment. The timing of these nominations, as well as the president’s past demands of loyalty from government officials, demands close scrutiny of the candidates and the White House’s selection process.
In the normal process for vetting Inspectors General, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) will usually submit a recommendation for proposed candidates. CREW has requested documents from CIGIE around these nominations to investigate the degree to which Trump is undermining the integrity of oversight of the government’s coronavirus response.
Inspectors General must be independent from the president’s political agenda because their reports are a key channel through which public needs are directly conveyed so that the government can respond accordingly. These reports can document anything from whether hospitals are understaffed to whether small businesses are receiving the loans they request. If Trump is putting into place Inspectors General who are biased in his favor, then there becomes an increased risk of biased investigations or the withholding of reporting altogether. It is pressing that the public know to what extent Trump either sought out or took recommendations from CIGIE, or if CIGIE is also involved in Trump’s scheme to bias the Inspector General selection process.