- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley, the chamber’s senior Republican, rebuked the White House Tuesday for its handling of the firings of two inspectors general, saying President Trump is refusing to come clean on why he did it.

Mr. Grassley, Congress’s most fervent defender of the inspector general system that watches over federal agencies, said he doesn’t question Mr. Trump’s authority to go through with the firings, but does question his decision-making.

“If the president has a good reason to remove an inspector general, just tell Congress what it is. Otherwise, the American people will be left speculating whether political or self interests are to blame. That’s not good for the presidency or government accountability,” Mr. Grassley said.

He was responding after the White House wrote a letter to him brushing aside inquiries over firings of inspectors general for the intelligence community and the State Department.

Under a 2008 law, the president is supposed to provide Congress with written reasons for the ouster of an inspector general.

White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone wrote that Mr. Trump fulfilled that obligation by saying he’d “no longer” had the “fullest confidence” in each man.

Mr. Cipollone pointed out that President Obama had used similar language in firing an inspector general in 2009, and that move was upheld by federal courts.

Congress is probing the removal of the inspectors general, with Democrats saying the ouster of the State Department watchdog appeared to be an effort to derail a probe into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Mr. Cipollone acknowledged in his letter that Mr. Pompeo had sparked the removal of that inspector general.

The White House lawyer also defended the two people Mr. Trump named as acting inspectors general, saying they brought long histories of work within their fields.

Mr. Grassley, though, said it appeared Mr. Trump had named political appointees to serve in roles that, to his mind, should show more independence.

The Iowa senator said he’s now working on legislation to prevent political appointees from being named as acting inspectors general.

Congress established inspectors general to serve the American people — to be independent and objective watchdogs, not agency lapdogs,” Mr. Grassley said. “That’s the only way they can help drain the swamp of waste, fraud, and abuse entrenched within unelected bureaucracies.”

He went on to say that he appreciated the “new-found appreciation” some of his colleagues and the press are showing for the work inspectors general do in holding administrations accountable. He said he hoped they would be as diligent in boosting inspectors general even after Mr. Trump is out of office.

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