Washington, D.C. — The Trump administration’s controversial removal of several inspectors general during the coronavirus pandemic signals a new front in its attack on oversight, according to a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress.
President Donald Trump has fired or replaced at least five government watchdogs—most recently Steven Linick, the inspector general for the Department of State. Taken together with the dismissal of other key players in Trump’s impeachment, there is little room to view these actions as anything other than retribution, the brief says.
“Congress should act now to scrutinize the executive branch’s actions and enact new legislation to make it harder to purge government watchdogs for doing their job,” said William Roberts, managing director of Democracy and Government Reform at CAP. “Lawmakers must protect the important oversight functions of these watchdogs and bring further purges to a halt.”
The brief outlines steps that Congress can take to better protect those providing critical oversight of the administration in these challenging times. It urges Congress to enact new laws to protect the independence of the inspectors general and ensure effective oversight in the executive branch.
Among the recommendations is legislation that would only allow inspectors general to be removed by the president under certain good cause conditions such as malfeasance, abuse of authority, and knowing violations of laws, rules, or regulations. Other proposals would establish a process to automatically fill IG vacancies, ensure that acting IGs maintain civil service protections against retaliation, and trigger an automatic public review of removals to be conducted by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.
Read the issue brief: “Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Trump Administration Targets Government Watchdogs” by William Roberts.
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