Senate Democrats back oversight efforts after Trump removal of IG

Warren and Blumenthal voice support for DOJ inspector general to oversee coronavirus response

Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter Wednesday in support of Justice Department IG Michael E. Horowitz to head the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee overseeing coronavirus aid spending. (Bill Clark, Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter Wednesday in support of Justice Department IG Michael E. Horowitz to head the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee overseeing coronavirus aid spending. (Bill Clark, Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted April 8, 2020 at 3:04pm

Democratic senators are pledging their support to the efforts of inspectors general to oversee the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump removed Glenn Fine from his role as acting inspector general at the Pentagon, a move that sidelined him as the leader of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC).

On Wednesday, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut expressed support of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz — in his capacity as chairman of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency — to head the PRAC.

"The decision to fire Acting Inspector Fine was outrageous, and a clear effort by President Trump to prevent oversight and avoid accountability for what, so far, has been a failed and
corruption-filled response to the coronavirus pandemic,” the senators wrote in a Wednesday letter.

“But with the exception of firing a score of Inspectors General and replacing them with handpicked toadies, there is little that President Trump can do to prevent the PRAC from doing its job of overseeing the federal government's coronavirus response."

The latest letter was obtained first by CQ Roll Call.

The two senators directed their letter to Horowitz and Paul Martin, the vice chairman of the PRAC. Martin is the inspector general at NASA.

“The PRAC was designed in part so it could not be directly undermined by President Trump. It has broad authority to review both the public health and economic response to the coronavirus pandemic and all funds spent to address it,” wrote Warren and Blumenthal.

The senators requested that the group of inspectors general address oversight of both the health policy and fiscal responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. They cite the well-documented early shortfalls in the response, including the inability of the Trump administration to produce adequate testing as the coronavirus began to spread.

“All of these failures are exacerbated by a climate of corruption that surrounds the Trump Administration, whether it is the improper and potentially illegal commandeering of the
White House Coronavirus Task Force by Jared Kushner, the politicization of the distribution of critical medical supplies from the National Security Stockpile, or the possibility that the President’s interest in his own investments, rather than the public good, may be driving the Administration’s public health and economic decisions,” Warren and Blumenthal wrote.

“You have vast authority to identify and address these problems, and we urge you to act quickly and vigorously to do so.”