WaPo: Trump’s Latest IG Picks Have “Preposterous” Conflicts Of Interest

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“The Trump administration is attempting to make lap dogs out of watchdogs,” said a former inspector general.

Over the past two months, President Trump has replaced five career investigators with inspector general appointees who are considered more loyal to him, according to The Washington Post.

  • Most recently, Trump appointed Howard “Skip” Elliott to “investigate waste, fraud and abuse at the Transportation Department.” However, since Elliott is the same official in charge of one of the agency’s key divisions, he is currently “running an office charged with investigating his own actions,” wrote The Post.
  • Likewise, Stephen Ackard, now the watchdog at the State Department, also serves as head of the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions.

“The idea that an independent IG could simultaneously be part of the political team running an agency they are supposed to oversee is preposterous,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.

  • In the last two months, Trump “has installed new leadership drawn from the senior ranks of the agencies the inspectors general oversee.”

The Post reported that some believe the “40-year era of independent oversight of the executive branch is under threat more than ever.”

  • Past presidents have removed federal watchdogs, but it was a rare occurrence if they did. Trump’s recent actions have made this decision more of a “weekly occurrence, leaving the offices that monitor wrongdoing across the government wary of who could be the next to go,” The Post wrote.
  • House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter A. DeFazio (D- OR) said, “it is an outrageous and obvious conflict of interest” for Elliott to suddenly be appointed as acting inspector general.
  • Trump has been displaying hostility towards the federal watchdogs, many of them appointed by former President Barack Obama. He publicly denounced them for “alerting Congress to a whistleblower complaint that triggered his impeachment,” reported The Post.

The continuous conflicts of interest in Trump’s decisions cause “advocates for government oversight in both parties [to] see a dangerous precedent in this expansive view of presidential power as Trump makes quick work of the professionals who’ve been bulwarks against corruption for four decades – some of them making history,” The Post wrote.

The federal watchdogs are not very popular with government leaders, but they hold important responsibilities.

  • They oversee 14,000 auditors and investigators, and carry out duties such as covering routine audits of operations, protecting whistleblowers, and conducting investigations of criminal activity.
  • One of the most significant actions by a watchdog during the Trump administration was that of Michael Atkinson, “the intelligence community inspector general who alerted Congress to the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment. Trump, who had appointed Atkinson, fired him in April.”
  • Last week, when asked why he fired Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general, Trump said, “I have the absolute right as president to terminate.”

Although Republican senators including Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R- IA) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R- UT) have also voiced concerns about Trump’s controversial actions, The Post reported that “as of last week, no Republicans had joined Democrats in calling for a permanent fix to give the inspectors general more protection.”

Read the full report here.

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