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White House letter doesn’t explain why Trump fired watchdogs, Republican senator complains
 

The Trump administration insisted in a letter to Congress yesterday that Trump had followed the law when he fired multiple inspectors general in the last two months – but stopped short of explaining why the officials were let go.
 

The letter was issued in response to Republican senator Chuck Grassley’s concerns about the assault on oversight but is unlikely to quell outrage from Democrats and good-government groups who fear the president is moving to dismantle a post-Watergate network of watchdogs meant to root out corruption, fraud and other problems inside federal agencies.
 

Grassley – a longtime, self-appointed defender of inspectors general and congressional oversight – requested that the White House explain the basis for the firings in April and May of the inspectors general for the intelligence community and the State Department.
 

The response from White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Tuesday does not provide those details, instead making the points that Trump has the authority to remove inspectors general, that he appropriately alerted Congress and that he selected qualified officials as replacements.
 

“When the president loses confidence in an inspector general, he will exercise his constitutional right and duty to remove that officer – as did President Reagan when he removed inspectors general upon taking office and as did President Obama when he was in office,” Cipollone wrote.

Trump’s recent actions have raised alarms about efforts to weaken government oversight and about possible retaliation for investigations or actions seen as unfavorable to the administration.

Michael Atkinson, who was fired as intelligence community inspector general last month, advanced a whistleblower complaint that resulted in the president’s impeachment. Democrats say Steve Linick was fired as State Department inspector general as he was conducting investigations tied to secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
 

Grassley said on Tuesday that he was dissatisfied with the White House’s lack of explanation, saying: “Congress made clear that if the president is going to fire an inspector general, there ought to be a good reason for it. The White House Counsel’s response failed to address this requirement.”
 

Grassley, a Trump ally, said he does not dispute Trump’s authority under the Constitution to fire an inspector general, but added: “Without sufficient explanation, it’s fair to question the president’s rationale for removing an inspector general. If the president has a good reason to remove an inspector general, just tell Congress what it is.”

Another recently ousted official, Christi Grimm – chief watchdog at the Department of Health and Human Services – happened to be testifying to Congress on Tuesday.

Here’s what she had to say.
 


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