House Bill Would Limit President’s Ability to Remove Inspectors General

President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House April 10.

President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House April 10. Evan Vucci/AP

The legislation comes after President Trump removed two inspectors general and verbally attacked others.

House Democratic leaders lamented President Trump’s “assault” on federal inspectors general Friday and previewed new legislation that would restrict the limit the president’s ability to remove them.

In a letter to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency Chairman Michael Horowitz, House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., sought input regarding legislative proposals or other means to protect IGs and preserve their independence.

The letter, signed by the chairs of more than two dozen House committees, also unveiled new legislation that would place restrictions on the president’s ability to fire IGs. Under the legislation, the president could only remove an IG under “good cause” conditions, including neglect of duty, permanent incapacity, malfeasance, abuse of authority, breaking the law and conviction of a felony.

A senior Democratic committee aide told Nextgov Maloney plans to sponsor the legislation, “which she expects to introduce formally next week after consulting with the IG council.”

“Unlike any President in modern history, President Trump has engaged in offensive and unjustified attacks against Inspectors General, criticizing them for following the law, and retaliating against them for telling the truth,” the letter states. 

The letter and subsequent legislation follow Trump’s high-profile removal April 6 of acting Pentagon IG Glenn Fine, who was slated to chair the new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. Congress created the committee to oversee federal spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Fine’s removal followed Trump’s firing of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who Trump said was “not a Trump fan.”

Amid those removals, Trump railed against Health and Human Services Principal Deputy Inspector General Christi Grimm after an audit warned health care facilities nationwide faced “severe shortages” of testing supplies and “extended waits” for tests.

“Each one of these actions by the President would raise significant concerns by itself. Together, they reflect a campaign of political retaliation and reward that is antithetical to good government, undermine the proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars, and degrade the federal government’s ability to function competently,” the letter said.