President Donald Trump fired Pentagon inspector general Glenn Fine earlier this week, who was originally tasked with monitoring the coronavirus economic relief plan.
On Tuesday, the president removed IG Glenn Fine, the chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee that led a group of inspectors general in overseeing the creation and disbursement of the over $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus relief effort.
“Mr. Fine is no longer on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee,” a Pentagon spokesperson said, also indicating that Fine will return to his Senate-confirmed role as principal deputy inspector general of the Pentagon.
The president temporarily appointed the inspector general for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instead, to monitor the implementation of the new law.
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a panel made up of inspectors general to locate and investigate waste and abuse of spending under the bill, was created as part of the stimulus package that passed last month.
Under the new law, there was also a new position of a special inspector general for pandemic recovery that was created. This position, which Brian Miller was appointed to by Trump on Monday, will conduct oversight over stimulus spending by the Treasury Department.
Miller currently serves as special assistant to the president and senior associate counsel in the Office of White House Counsel. Miller also formerly served as inspector general for the General Services Administration (GSA) for nearly a decade and reported on fraud, waste and abuse.
Naturally, Congressional Democrats were not happy with the dismissal of Fine, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Trump for his decision, as expected.
“President Trump is abusing the coronavirus pandemic to eliminate honest and independent public servants because they are willing to speak truth to power and because he is so clearly afraid of strong oversight,” Schumer said in a statement Tuesday. “President Trump’s corrupt action to sideline Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine, who was newly-appointed as chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, only strengthens Democrats’ resolve to hold the administration accountable and enforce the multiple strict oversight provisions of the CARES Act.”
The removal of Fine is especially threatening to Democrats, amid a battle in Congress over their efforts to establish additional investigative committees to oversee the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and stimulus distribution.
Last week, Pelosi announced that she would create a bipartisan House committee to oversee the administration’s response, and that it would be chaired by Rep. Jim Clyburn, (D-SC). She said the committee is designed to address the “here and now,” concerning the allocation of the historic amount of federal funds directed to the economic recovery, and even went as far as to compare it to the committee chaired by then Senator Harry Truman in 1941 to investigate waste, fraud and abuse in defense spending at the beginning of World War II.
“With over $2 trillion in emergency relief, we need to ensure those dollars are spent carefully and effectively,” Pelosi said of the stimulus bill passed by Congress.
The Congressional Oversight Commission is already set up to supervise spending by the Department of the Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. It is required to send reports to Congress every 30 days. The House also has an Oversight Committee, which is tasked with conducting oversight of the federal government.