Politics - News Analysis
Much More Trouble Coming at Trump Over the Next Two Months: Inspector General Reports Finally Coming
One of the inherent limitations in our Constitution is the fact that our Article II branch – the Executive Branch – is the branch that both spends the money while also enforcing the laws. Indeed, it often enforces the law by spending the money allocated by Congress. And one can almost see the trouble brewing already. To make matters worse, each department is set-up in such a way that the people most likely to notice “stealing” or “cheating” going on within the department are those who have been there for life and are thus under any current political director.
If a conscientious employee at that the Department of Energy (for example) noticed that the deputy director (a political appointment) is giving contracts exclusively to a company in exchange for kickbacks, that conscientious employee likely reports to the very same director. That is how one “notices” it is happening.
Given this obvious “inherent limitation” to our process, Congress set up “Inspector General” offices in each department. The inspector general would operate like an “internal affairs” in a police department and either make referrals to DOJ or report directly to congress. In theory, DOJ would prosecute the case or Congress could then impeach any executive officer “caught” breaking the law, or both.
Obviously, this entire process just got rolled under Trump, which is exactly what one expects to happen when one elects a president who truly couldn’t give a ship about laws generally, and ones that impact him, in particular. Trump fired inspectors general left and right, five in just a two-month “purge” near the end of his administration (when it looked like things could get bad). But he couldn’t get rid of the offices entirely, and people – lifers – continued to do the work.
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Their work is about to drop, according to the Washington Post:
Across the government, at least nine key oversight investigations were impeded by clashes with the White House or political appointees, people familiar with inspector general offices and public documents show.
Long-anticipated reports were released only this month on two senior Trump officials. One found evidence that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao may have misused her position by repeatedly deploying her staff on personal business. A second concluded that former White House physician Ronny Jackson was mean to his staff and drank on the job.
Now, in any administration, one would anticipate nine, or even ninety, inspector general reports on various actions taken by employees at any given time. But with most administrations, one would expect corruption at a much lower level and far more limited in scale. The Trump administration was not “most administrations.” If there is one thing we know about the Trump administration, it is that at times it seemed like literally everyone was on the take and it started at the top. Trump didn’t just arbitrarily fire all those I.G.s.
Thus, there is serious reason to believe that these reports could apply to corruption at the very top, Trump himself. One hint stands out like the proverbial 800 lb. MAGA in the corner:
Lawyers invoked the power of the president and top agency officials to withhold their confidential communications. They insisted on a seat at the witness table — or blocked employee interviews altogether. Documents were often released at the pace of dripping faucets — or not at all.
Trump needs secrecy, in everything he does, he craves secrecy. One might guess it is because his “brand” is the exact opposite of what goes on behind the scenes, the self-made, wealthy, business genius, is nothing more than a trust-fund baby with a life-threatening anger problem, one who might have been involved with lawbreaking all along, nothing new when he became president.
“There was a blatant attempt by the Trump White House to interfere with the work of IGs that we had not seen before,” said Nick Schwellenbach, an expert on the inspector general system at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan advocate for government reform.
And why was there such an intense attempt? One never seen before? We will likely soon find out, one report at a time.
“It is no surprise that several critically important reports about the behavior and decisions of multiple officials are only now becoming public,” House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in an email, lamenting that many Trump officials “escaped accountability while in office.”
Oh, and it is not too late for those I.G. reports to be referred over to the Department of Justice. The statute of limitations on most federal felonies is at least five years. It doesn’t hurt that Bill Barr is no longer Attorney General.
[email protected] and on Twitter @JasonMiciak