We’re committed to keeping our readers informed.
We’ve removed our paywall from essential coronavirus news stories. Become a subscriber to support our journalists. Subscribe now.
One of Democrats’ most critical hang-ups in passing Senate Republicans’ draft of the coronavirus stimulus package was that the president and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would oversee a $500 billion slush fund for businesses, leading to concerns that Trump would dip into the money to bail out his own struggling resorts and hotels. During the process, Trump assured Americans that he could handle the task responsibly: “I’ll be the oversight,” he told reporters in one of his coronavirus press conferences. Despite efforts to hold him accountable, he has kept that vow, treating it as something between a promise and a threat.
When he signed the CARES Act on March 27, Trump said he would ignore the provisions requiring the White House to coordinate with Congress to allocate funds for businesses, citing “constitutional concerns.” And on Monday, he took a more concrete step, removing the inspector general leading the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. Glenn Fine, the acting Pentagon watchdog who had served under both Obama and Bush, was appointed by a panel of inspectors general to ensure accountability for the $2 trillion stimulus. Trump has now replaced him in both his roles with the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency, Sean O’Donnell.
While the move affirms the president’s disdain for any checks on executive power, the choice of O’Donnell was peculiar, considering his pushback at the EPA. According to Politico, “Last week, O’Donnell issued an unusual alert publicly warning that EPA has failed to tell communities about the risks of living near medical sterilization plants and chemical plants that emit a carcinogenic gas.” Though O’Donnell’s additional responsibilities — he’s now the watchdog for the coronavirus stimulus, the Pentagon, and the EPA — suggest the administration might be giving one man three jobs in the hopes he won’t be able to do any of them effectively.
The firing of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee inspector general is just part of an administration-wide purge: Last Friday, Trump removed Intelligence watchdog Michael Atkinson, who had received the whistle-blower complaint that led to the president’s impeachment. And late on Tuesday, RealClearPolitics reported that the clearing had only just begun: