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Trump removes Obama-era IG from Covid-19 relief watchdog panel as Dems cry corruption

Trump removes Obama-era IG from Covid-19 relief watchdog panel as Dems cry corruption
US President Donald Trump has dismissed the Pentagon’s inspector general from the top watchdog role over the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. Opinions were split on whether it was “cleaning house” or “blatant corruption.”

The president removed Glenn Fine as the Pentagon’s Inspector General, by extension booting him from the top oversight post on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, on Monday. The committee, created to oversee the administration of the $2 trillion aid package signed into law last month, is made up of inspector generals who, in turn, had appointed Fine to lead them.

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Fine has been replaced on an interim basis by Sean O’Donnell, who takes over his duties at the Pentagon in addition to his current role as Inspector General for the Environmental Protection Agency. Jason Abend, a policy advisor with Customs and Border Patrol, has been nominated to serve permanently in the role, but must be confirmed by the Senate first.

Meanwhile, it’s not clear who will be leading the coronavirus oversight panel — an uncertainty Trump’s opponents insist is the point. “There’s no question in my mind the the president’s sudden interest in filling this vacancy is to undercut Fine’s role running the pandemic recovery,” Danielle Bryan, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, told USA Today on Tuesday, accusing the president of “taking a wrecking ball across the IG community.” While POGO presents itself as a nonpartisan accountability organization, it is funded primarily by liberal groups such as the Open Society Institute and the Rockefeller Family Fund.

Fine, a holdover from the Obama administration, is the second inspector general to be shown the door in a week. The president fired Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community who handled the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment, on Friday, noting in a letter to the heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee that it was “vital” that the president have the “fullest confidence” in the IG serving in that position. Post-impeachment — a shambolic procedure that almost certainly impeded the administration’s timely response to the coronavirus epidemic — “that is no longer the case,” Trump concluded, defending the decision on Saturday by referring to the now-unemployed watchdog as a “disgrace.”

Politico and others have speculated Health and Human Services IG Christi Grimm is next on the chopping block, after Trump called her office's report criticizing testing delays and "severe" hospital supply shortages "another Fake Dossier," and highlighted her history with the Obama administration — specifically the "failed H1N1 Swine Flu debacle where 17,000 people died."

Fine returns to his previous role as principal deputy inspector general for the Pentagon, a position he’s held since June 2015. He came back from retirement to take up that post after previously serving as Inspector General for the Department of Justice.

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