President Donald Trump is expected to fire at least seven top inspectors general, and legal experts are sounding the alarm.
Late Tuesday night RealClearPolitics White House and national political correspondent Susan Crabtree dropped this bombshell:
Breaking: Trump is firing 7 IGs in one fail swoop, sources confirm to @RealClearNews. Most likely will be the IGs that were appointed by Pres. Obama or beforehand. He wants his own people in those positions now. Trump during his briefing said he has “put in 7 names” for IGs.
— Susan Crabtree (@susancrabtree) April 7, 2020
Crabtree later noted “more changes may come later.”
Indeed, as Crabtree mentioned, Trump in fact did make the announcement Tuesday during the coronavirus briefing, but it went largely unnoticed.
Asked by a reporter about his Tuesday firing of Glenn Fine, the Acting Inspector General for the Defense Department, Trump rambled, saying that as president he has the right to fire Inspectors General. (That could be challenged in court if he goes through with the plan.)
“Well, we have a IGs [sic] in from the Obama era,” Trump told the reporter asking about Fine, an IG who has worked for every President since Bill Clinton. “And as you know, it’s a presidential decision. And I left them, largely. I may change some, but I left them.”
“But when we have, you know, reports of bias and when we have different things coming in — I don’t know Fine; I don’t think I ever met Fine. I heard the name –” Trump continued. “I heard the name.”
There are no credible reports of bias.
“I don’t know where he is,” Trump continued. “Maybe he was from Clinton. Okay? You have to check that out? Okay, maybe he’s from Clinton.”
“But we did change him, but we changed a number,” Trump said, suggesting the firing of a veteran and highly-regarded Inspector General is akin to getting an oil change.
And then Trump snuck in the bombshell.
“We have about seven nominations in,” meaning he will be replacing seven Inspectors General, or Acting IGs. “I believe we put seven very, very highly qualified people for the IG position. And, you know, that’s a decision that I could have made three years ago and I could have made two years ago. But we’re putting in — not so much for him. We’re putting in seven names. I think it was seven. And they’re going in now.”
Trump late Friday evening fired Michael Atkinson, the Intelligence Community Inspector General. Atkinson fulfilled his legal obligation to report a credible whistleblower complaint to Congress, and President Trump on Monday fully admitted that was the reason he fired him.
“I thought he did a terrible job… Absolutely terrible.”
Trump fired back at a reporter who asked about the firing of Intelligence Community inspector general Michael Atkinson pic.twitter.com/ZAPWmmBocQ
— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) April 4, 2020
On Tuesday President Trump fired Glenn Fine, the Acting Inspector General for the Defense Department, who had just been named by his peers to oversee the $2 trillion emergency coronavirus support program, which includes a $500 billion slush fund that will be managed by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Legal experts and lawmakers responded to the news Trump plans to purge seven Inspectors General, expressing anger and grave concern.
U.S. Senator (D-HI):
You can thank Senate Republicans for pre-approving all of the coming corruption by voting not guilty. And spare all of us a strongly worded press release. You had your chance. https://t.co/9vef638Ha8
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 7, 2020
Former CIA Officer:
This. Is. A. Problem. Alarm bells should be going off. https://t.co/LYTKUwV7Iz
— Andrew P. Bakaj (@AndrewBakaj) April 8, 2020
Former U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications:
Trump is dismantling American democracy during a pandemic, and every Republican who voted to protect him owns it. https://t.co/Uy7n50bV5k
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) April 8, 2020
Former Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council staff:
Trump reportedly firing SEVEN inspectors general all at once.
Guess he figured out that inspectors general were created to ensure accountability & oversight.
Those are 2 things Trump can’t stand.
This move is VERY dangerous to American democracy. https://t.co/bxnUKqwUWD
— Joshua A. Geltzer (@jgeltzer) April 7, 2020
Head of the Brennan Center’s National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy:
If true, this is a break glass moment for our democracy. And I’m not an alarmist, nor the biggest fan of all IGs. But they play an essential role in checking abuse & preventing autocracy. If there are more @MittRomney‘s in Congress, now is the time to speak out. STRING 1/ https://t.co/EDiZFxCu20
— Rudy Mehrbani (@RudyMehrbani) April 8, 2020
Former director of USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA):
This is a huge, huge red flag. https://t.co/sLA3JmOWON
— Jeremy INVEST IN PUBLIC HEALTH Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) April 8, 2020
Noted political scientist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI):
This is a giant step towards a corrupt autocracy. And not a word from his enabler’s in Congress. No different than the lawmakers in Hungary, in Egypt and other countries where they turned a blind eye to vicious dictators seizing power and squeezing freedoms out of the society.
— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) April 8, 2020
Former federal corruption prosecutor, now Executive Director of CREW:
If anyone thought we were exaggerating about the President’s attack on any independent oversight and accountability, and undermining of democratic checks and balances, this should make it painfully clear. Really scary. https://t.co/UxEoMxkvd4
— Noah Bookbinder (@NoahBookbinder) April 7, 2020
U.S. Senator (D-CT):
This is getting ridiculous.
I’m drafting legislation to give all Inspectors General protected 7 year terms. Sound like a good idea? https://t.co/pLu0PkOwT4
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) April 8, 2020
Law Professor at University of Texas School of Law, CNN’s Supreme Court analyst:
Inspectors General exist to hold the Executive Branch accountable by identifying fraud, waste, abuse, & illegality.
The President has the constitutional and statutory authority to fire them, but given their job, we have a right to know *why* he no longer values their oversight. https://t.co/kJ4uy3CRd4
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 8, 2020
Trump is purging oversight officials: https://t.co/GDfmDM4kE8
— Leah McElrath 🏳️🌈 (@leahmcelrath) April 8, 2020