There are trillions of taxpayer dollars in the trunk, Donald Trump is at the wheel and the cops are nowhere in sight.
The congressional coronavirus relief measures for taxpayers and businesses passed in recent weeks are the largest in U.S. history. Members of Congress, understandably, made an effort when writing the legislation to ensure all that money was spent according to the law.
But over and over in recent days, President Trump has sought to cut out those checks.
For example, the relief bill included a “special inspector general for pandemic recovery,” or SIGPR, to oversee the Treasury secretary’s spending of $500 billion.
But in a signing statement accompanying the bill, the President made clear he wasn’t much interested in the oversight effort.
The bailout package, Trump wrote, “authorizes the SIGPR to request information from other government agencies and requires the SIGPR to report to the Congress ‘without delay’ any refusal of such a request that ‘in the judgment of the Special Inspector General’ is unreasonable.”
Trump wasn’t having it: “I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause, Article II, section 3.”
And as we found out this week, writing off the law’s oversight efforts as unconstitutional was just the beginning.
After trashing the SIGPR post, Trump nominated a White House lawyer to fill it. Brian Miller is currently a special assistant to Trump and senior associate counsel in the White House counsel’s office — the same office that would have helped Trump draft his signing statement.
Then Trump made another move — demoting the bailout’s top watchdog by replacing him.
On March 30, a group of inspectors general selected the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, Glenn Fine, to oversee the trillions Congress had allocated to buoy the economy as chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, or PRAC.
But on Monday, just days after the appointment, Trump removed Fine from his post at the Pentagon, demoting him to his previous position as Principal Deputy Inspector General — therefore making him ineligible to watch over the bailout money.
He hardly seems done: There are others on the committee that have earned Trump’s ire, and in light of Fine’s demotion, their jobs appear at risk as well.
Christi Grimm, principal deputy inspector general at the Health department and another PRAC member, was also on the receiving end of a presidential volley.
Why? Grimm’s office had released a report finding that “severe shortages of testing supplies and extended waits for test results limited hospitals’ ability to monitor the health of patients and staff” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a tweet the day after ranting about Grimm at a press conference, Trump focused on Grimms’ “8 years with the Obama Administration” even though she’s served every president since George W. Bush. “Another Fake Dossier!” he said of Grimm’s report.
Like Fine, Grimm is only leading her office in an “acting” capacity — and Trump has said he likes such “acting” officials, because, well, “It gives me more flexibility.” That’s for sure.
Here’s what else we were watching this week: