You may have heard the news today that Trump fired the independent Inspector General in charge of monitoring the $2 trillion coronavirus relief fund.

I want to explain why this is a Very Big Deal.

When I worked in the Department of Education many years ago, I learned that the I.G. was nonpartisan and was respected and revered. As a political appointee, you knew that the I.G. was in charge of monitoring ethics and professional standards. He or she was not an omsbudsman, but the keeper of the rules and the law.

Trump fires Inspectors General as if they were his personal employees. Just last Friday, he fired the I.G. for the Director of National Intelligence, presumably for daring to do his duty during the Ukraine investigation. Trump wants everyone in the government to be loyal to him, not to abstract notions of ethics and norms. If anything shows his contempt for the law, it is this. Trump treats the federal bureaucracy as it is were his personal staff. No one dares to do their duty; their duty is to obey their Leader. He aspires to be a tinhorn Dictator of a Banana Republic, and Senate Republicans protect him.

Politico reports:


President Donald Trump has upended the panel of federal watchdogs overseeing implementation of the $2 trillion coronavirus law, tapping a replacement for the Pentagon official who was supposed to lead the effort.

A panel of inspectors general had named Glenn Fine — the acting Pentagon watchdog — to lead the group charged with monitoring the coronavirus relief effort. But Trump on Monday removed Fine from his post, instead naming the EPA inspector general to serve as the temporary Pentagon watchdog in addition to his other responsibilities.

That decision, which began circulating on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, effectively removed Fine from his role overseeing the coronavirus relief effort, since the new law permits only current inspectors general to fill the position.

“Mr. Fine is no longer on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee,” Dwrena Allen, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon inspector general’s office, confirmed. She added that Fine will return to his Senate-confirmed post as principal deputy inspector general of the Pentagon.

Fine’s removal is Trump’s latest incursion into the community of independent federal watchdogs — punctuated most dramatically by his late Friday ouster of the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, whose handling of a whistleblower report ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment.

Trump has also begun sharply attacking Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm, following a report from her office that described widespread testing delays and supply issues at the nation’s hospitals.

“Another Fake Dossier!” Trump tweeted, mentioning Grimm’s tenure as inspector general during the Obama administration. He didn’t mention, though, that Grimm has been serving as a federal watchdog since 1999, spanning administrations of both parties.

Trump’s targeting of Atkinson drew an unusual rebuke from Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the Justice Department who also oversees a council of inspectors general. Horowitz said Atkinson handled the whistleblower matter appropriately and defended the broader IG community.