Which Inspector General Is Trump Saturday Night Massacring This Lovely Tuesday Afternoon?
Donald Trump, wannabe authoritarian shitheel, really hates inspectors general. They are, by definition, nonpartisan watchdogs of the various federal agencies, and it is their job to root out fraud, waste, grift, graft, and any other criminal behavior they find. Also they just tell the agencies where they have room for growth and opportunities for improvement. For all these reasons, they are Trump's natural enemy.
Friday night, Trump fired the inspector general of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, for the crime of following the law when a whistleblower came forward to report that Trump was using Ukraine to try and steal the 2020 election. Today, Trump fired Glenn Fine, the acting IG of the Defense Department who was supposed to be overseeing the funds in the $2 trillion coronavirus bill passed by Congress.
To be clear, Fine is highly respected. He's been an IG approximately forever, he is super non-partisan (first strike!), and he has all the experience he needed both to be (acting) IG of the Pentagon, and also the guy overseeing the coronavirus relief funds.
The Pentagon explained:
"Mr. Fine is no longer on the pandemic response accountability committee," Defense Department spokeswoman Dwrena K. Allen said in a statement. He will, however, continue to serve in his current position of principal deputy inspector general at the Pentagon. He had until now held both the acting and deputy positions.
Of course Fine was doing both jobs, as the Trump administration isn't known for things like "staffing" or "best people."
Don't worry, though, it's not like the top IG position at Defense is just going be held by an "acting" like it has been for four actual years, since Trump never bothered to nominate anybody for the confirmed role. Trump has at last nominated a highly unqualified idiot, Jason Abend from Customs and Border Protection, to be the Pentagon's official for real IG. Abend has zero experience that would suggest he should be IG of something like "Pentagon," so if confirmed, he'll fit right in with the rest of Trump's political appointees.
So What The Hell Just Happened?
So, OK. This is a lot of bureaucratic bullshit, so let's see if we can 'splain you what just happened here.
When the CARES Act coronavirus relief bill was passed by Congress, it specified that there would be a special Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), to be administered by a special IG chosen by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. (That IG council oversees the new pandemic committee.) As Marcy Wheeler explains in this informative blogging post, that council's chairperson is Michael Horowitz, the IG of the Department of Justice. Horowitz and his fellow inspectors general chose Glenn Fine for the new job, to be the boss of PRAC.
Now that Trump has fired Fine, Fine can no longer be the boss of PRAC, as per the terms of the CARES Act. So basically Trump just kneecapped Horowitz and Fine and meaningful oversight of PRAC. (Why would Trump kneecap Horowitz? Oh we don't know, maybe he is still pissed that the IG report on the origins of the Russia investigation, the one Fox News and Trump literally jizzed themselves anticipating, did not in fact find that Hillary Clinton and James Comey created the Russia hoax late one night in the bathtub just to hurt Trump. Perhaps it is that.)
The entire point of PRAC is to watchdog the administration of the CARES Act, "looking for waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money," as the Post writes. So you can see why Trump doesn't like this whole PRAC business one little bit!
But wait, there is more!
As Wheeler explains, Trump added a signing statement to the CARES act, saying Congress does not need to be consulted on who the IGs want to pick to administer PRAC. But Trump didn't like their choice, so he fired the guy they put in.
Now, Trump has decided that unless and until Abend is confirmed, the acting IG of the Defense Department will be Sean O'Donnell, who is also currently the IG of the EPA. No, O'Donnell is not quitting EPA! He's just going to do an extra job, because we guess since Trump doesn't want oversight, then adding that job to somebody's portfolio really isn't that big a deal. And if it means O'Donnell can't do oversight for both organizations particularly well, then ... hooray for Trump!
And who will administer PRAC? That's not entirely clear yet, we don't think.
There's another part of Trump's signing statement, where he says Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can do whatever slush-fundy shit he wants, without oversight, even though Democrats only supported the CARES Act on the condition that Munch's $500 billion corporate slush fund would be oversighted. The bill created another new inspector general-type position inside Treasury, Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR), to watch Munch's ass, and says SIGPR has to report to Congress. Trump's signing statement, however, says NO WATCH MUNCH'S ASS! NO WATCH MUNCH'S ASS! I WILL WATCH MUNCH'S ASS!
But don't worry, Trump slithered out of that one in an extra way, by putting one of his impeachment idiots from the White House Counsel's office, Brian Miller, in the SIGPR role. (Wheeler notes that Miller at least has a c.v. that makes sense for such a role.)
The point is, with Trump's signing statement, he said he'll spend this money however he sees fit, and fuck Congress. Today's firing of Glenn Fine and his other actions so far have just been ways to help make that happen.
So Who's Next On Trump's List?
Oh Lord fuckin' knows, but if Monday's Trump corona-lingus presser is any indication, it's Principal Deputy Inspector General Christi Grimm from the Department of Health and Human Services. You see, she released a report what said all the hospitals in US America are telling HHS that they don't have the PPE and tests they need to care for coronavirus patients. The report is really, when it all boils down, the hospitals asking for help. And Trump is mad.
He isn't mad because the hospitals don't have PPE or corona tests — Fuck that! That would require him to think about something that isn't himself! — but rather he is mad at Grimm because she had the audacity to release that report, which made him look bad.
Here, watch Trump respond to a Fox News reporter who asked about that report. (Yes, a Fox News reporter!) Watch him get MAD because the "federal government" isn't supposed to just "stand on street corners doing testing," and then tell that reporter (it's a woman, surprise) to not be "so horrid."
Fox News reporter: "Testing is still a big issue in this country. When can hospitals expect to receive a quick turn… https://t.co/odPubnL1rC— Pod Save America (@Pod Save America)1586213881.0
Trump also aimed right at Grimm:
"It still could be her opinion. When was she appointed? Do me a favor and let me know. Let me know now. I have to know," the president said in response to a question about the findings.
"Where did he come from, the inspector general? What's his name?" Trump said, adding: "Could politics be entered into that?"
Not only is Donald Trump completely fucking stupid — he thinks IGs release reports about their opinions? — he wants to know when she was appointed, because it's entirely possible she is just a Deep State out to GIT HIM, like all the others. Because for the umpteenth time, the pandemic is, in his mind, literally all about him.
Hey look, President Whine-So-Much decided to whine so much about it on Twitter this morning too. He even called the report a "Fake Dossier," because "Fake Dossier" means it is a hoax, like the Russia hoax:
Why didn’t the I.G., who spent 8 years with the Obama Administration (Did she Report on the failed H1N1 Swine Flu d… https://t.co/t0hdxZyFP5— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1586272966.0
Fuck you. The report is about what the hospitals — you know, the people actually doing the work fighting against coronavirus, without proper protection or tests — are telling HHS. Just seriously fuck you, Donald Trump.
So anyway, congrats, Christi Grimm! You are probably the next contestant on "So You Want To Be Saturday Night Massacred By A Bloated Orange Pile Of Cells And Shit?"
So What Does This All Mean?
Trump doesn't want to be held accountable for his shitty and bloodstained response to coronavirus.
Trump was warned of how serious the novel coronavirus would be way back in January, and it was in his intelligence briefings — to which he notoriously doesn't pay attention — all through the winter. He doesn't want people looking into that, and he doesn't want people telling him how he can and cannot use the trillions of dollars of aid Congress is approving in order to grift or commit common crimes.
We referenced a Marcy Wheeler post above, but you should really read it all, to get a sense of just how many of Trump's actions right now are meant to guarantee, especially after his impeachment, that he can't be called to account for colluding with COVID-19 to kill what could end up being a couple hundred thousand Americans, or more.
That's it. He's bunglefucked it from the beginning, and he's going to bunglefuck it to the end, and like a common Donald Trump, he wants to skate away without consequences.
Let's wrap this up with a statement from A Expert, as quoted by the Washington Post:
Paul Rosenzweig, a Department of Homeland Security political appointee in the George W. Bush administration, blasted the president's removal of Fine as "an affront to independence and oversight."
Said Rosenzweig: "Frankly, if the House of Representatives does not condition all further Covid aid on the restriction of the president's removal authority, they will have made a mistake. They should realize that the president is no longer operating in any semblance of good faith and he is more dangerous to the fabric of American democracy than the virus.
"He is more dangerous to the fabric of American democracy than the virus."
Yep, this post is over now! OPEN THREAD!
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