Donald Trump’s Inspector General scandal explodes

As part of the United States’ system of checks and balances, new laws often establish a special oversight mechanism to prevent abuses of power and unauthorized spending of American taxpayer dollars. Although oversight should be welcomed as a hallmark of a functioning democracy, there are two reasons why a President might push back against it. First, he might be a narcissist who insists on calling all the shots without accountability. Second, he might be a depraved individual who believes he is above the law.

Of course, Donald Trump fits both of these characterizations perfectly, which is only one of countless reasons why Trump is the last person any American should want in the White House. As the world struggles in its uphill war against the coronavirus pandemic, Trump continues to remind us that he cannot be trusted.

In May 2018, Trump appointed Michael Atkinson as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. This past August, Atkinson received a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his rival, Joe Biden. Atkinson investigated the complaint and found it to be both “credible” and “of urgent concern” under the whistleblower law and passed it up the chain. When Trump then tried to prevent the complaint from reaching Congress, Atkinson sounded the alarm. This disturbing episode paved the way to Trump’s impeachment in December—and Atkinson’s abrupt firing on Friday night.

Trump is hoping to do better at ensuring that he picks Inspectors General who are loyal to him. So, Trump also announced on Friday that he will appoint Brian Miller as the new Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR). This position, which requires Senate confirmation, was created last week by the CARES Act, as one of three layers of oversight to ensure that $500 billion in loan funding gets distributed properly to companies and local governments.

Inspectors General are supposed to be independent, and so Trump’s choice of Miller, who is a current White House lawyer, raises a major red flag. The other concern is that Trump last week claimed in a signing statement that the Constitution authorizes him to review the SIGPR’s quarterly reports before they go to Congress. This prompted a stern bipartisan letter on Friday from Democratic Senator Jon Tester and Republican Senator Mitt Romney warning that the SIGPR must be allowed to “fulfill its statutory responsibilities.”

Donald Trump is a five-alarm fire that must be extinguished at the ballot box in November. Just like putting out a real fire, voting Trump out of office on Election Day is critical for saving lives and preventing further catastrophic damage. If we succeed, it will prove to be the ultimate exercise of oversight on this evil and dangerous man, and America’s democracy would then be gloriously reinvigorated.

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