Grassley Says White House ‘Failed’ To Give Good Reason For IG Firings

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) talks with reporters after the Senate Republican Policy luncheon on February 25, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
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May 27, 2020 10:19 a.m.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Tuesday that the White House “failed” to provide a “good reason” for President Donald Trump’s firing of two inspectors general he had inquired about.

The two were inspector general for the intelligence community Michael Atkinson, and State Department IG Steve Linick.

Grassley said that the White House’s response also did not address the “glaring conflict of interest” created by Trump nominating replacements from the overseen department, some of whom are maintaining both positions at once.

“If the president has a good reason to remove an inspector general, just tell Congress what it is,” Grassley said in a statement. “Otherwise, the American people will be left speculating whether political or self interests are to blame.”

He made sure to include a jab at his Democratic colleagues and reporters, saying that he hopes their “newfound appreciation” for inspectors general doesn’t “sunset at the end of this administration.”

Grassley had prompted the White House to respond to his inquiries late last week, after they ignored his letters.

In his response to Grassley’s inquiries, counsel to the President Pat Cipollone laid out the President’s legal right to remove inspectors general. He did not, as Grassley requested, give rationale for their firings beyond the President having lost faith in the officials.

“When the President loses confidence in an inspector general, he will exercise his
constitutional right and duty to remove that officer-as did President Reagan when he removed inspectors general upon taking office and as did President Obama when he was in office,” Cipollone wrote. “Consistent with these principles, President Trump removed the two inspectors general addressed in your letters.”

Trump has fired or removing from leadership positions five inspectors general this spring alone. His most recent firing of Linick, at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recommendation, set off alarm bells and a congressional inquiry due to the investigations Linick was conducting that involved Pompeo.

House Democrats also called Christi Grimm, the Health and Human Services watchdog Trump punished for releasing a report about hospitals’ equipment shortages amid the pandemic, before the Oversight Committee on Tuesday. They pressed her on the “chilling” effect Trump’s actions were having on the inspectors general community, though she kept her answers general.

While she was speaking, Glenn Fine, a deputy in the Pentagon’s inspector general office, resigned after over a decade of service. A month ago, Trump had removed him from his acting leadership position, ensuring that he would not be able to lead a committee charged with oversight of coronavirus relief funds.

Read Cipollone’s response to Grassley here:

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