Trump Ousts Inspectors General
A series of Friday night firings.
WaPo (“Trump to Fire Intelligence Watchdog Who Had Key Role in Ukraine Complaint“):
President Trump is firing the intelligence community inspector general whose insistence on telling lawmakers about a whistle-blower complaint about his dealings with Ukraine triggered impeachment proceedings last fall, the president told lawmakers in a letter late Friday.
The move came as Mr. Trump announced his intent to name a White House aide as the independent watchdog for $500 billion in corporate pandemic aid and notified Congress of other nominees to inspector general positions, including one that would effectively oust the newly named chairman of a panel to oversee how the government spends $2 trillion in coronavirus relief.
The slew of late-night announcements, coming as the world’s attention is gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, raised the specter of a White House power play over the community of inspectors general, independent officials whose mission is to root out waste, fraud and abuse within the government.
Mr. Trump is ousting the intelligence community inspector general, Michael K. Atkinson, because he lost confidence in him, the president wrote in a letter to leaders of the two congressional intelligence committees. He gave no further explanation.
“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as president, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Mr. Trump wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”
The president has long discussed his desire to fire several inspectors general, and he has been talking to aides about his desire to oust Mr. Atkinson since last fall, tarring the inspector general as disloyal because he sought to share information with Congress about the president’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into delivering him personal political benefits.
That Trump fired Atkinson isn’t the least bit surprising. It’s not even the most blatantly self-interested firing he’s made; it’s probably not in the top five. That he’s a petty man who casually violates the norms of his office is by now so well established that it’s barely worth pointing out.
That he’s putting cronies into other key oversight positions is more problematic still but . . . well, see above.
One would think that, after Watergate, Congress would have changed the law and put these positions outside the scope of a President’s ability to fire without approval from the appropriate oversight committees. Of course, in this particular instance, it’s likely irrelevant since it’s unfathomable that Senate Republicans would find him guilty for breaking the law.