The response from the White House was not enough in addressing if there was a “good reason” for the firing of two inspector generals, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
“Congress made clear that if the president is going to fire an inspector general, there ought to be a good reason for it,” Grassley wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “The White House Counsel’s response failed to address this requirement, which Congress clearly stated in statute and accompanying reports.”
Grassley wrote a letter to Trump on May 18 demanding for an explanation into the firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. While Trump said that he no longer had the “fullest confidence” in Linick, Grassley said “an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the IG Reform Act.”
The Iowa lawmaker joined a bipartisan group of senators who also asked in earlier May about details of the firing of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.
In his latest remarks to the White House’s response on the firings, Grassley said:
“If the president has a good reason to remove an inspector general, just tell Congress what it is. Otherwise, the American people will be left speculating whether political or self interests are to blame. That’s not good for the presidency or government accountability.”
In a letter to Grassley on Tuesday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote on the firing of Linick and Atkinson, “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.”
However, Grassley, in his statement, said the letter “does not address” the “glaring conflict of interest.”
“Nor is placing political appointees from the overseen agency into an acting leadership position within an inspector general office acceptable, especially when those individuals are keeping their appointments at the same time. The White House Counsel’s letter does not address this glaring conflict of interest. Congress established inspectors general to serve the American people—to be independent and objective watchdogs, not agency lapdogs. That’s the only way they can help drain the swamp of waste, fraud, and abuse entrenched within unelected bureaucracies.”
Previously, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defended Trump for firing Linick, as he said on May 19, “He is certainly within his authority. He gets to hire and fire under the Constitution, all people in the executive branch.”