The White House Counsel’s Office today responded to Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) requests for reasons behind the termination of two inspectors general.
“Though the Constitution gives the president the authority to manage executive branch personnel, 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, which Congress clearly stated in statute and accompanying reports. I don’t dispute the president’s authority under the Constitution, but 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. 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.
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.
“I’ve made clear that acting inspectors general should not be political appointees in order to preserve the independence required of the office, and I’m working with colleagues on legislation to codify this principle.
“Government Accountability isn’t only a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. Inspectors general shouldn’t be politically motivated or politically targeted. And those of us in Congress have a duty to promote accountability, regardless of who is in office. Oversight’s been important in past administrations and it will continue to be in the future. I hope the new-found appreciation for inspectors general by some of my colleagues and those in the media doesn’t sunset at the end of this administration,” Grassley said.
The 2008 Inspector General Reform Act requires the president to provide Congress with a written explanation at least 30 days prior to removing an inspector general in order to prevent politically-motivated terminations. Following the announced removal of the Intelligence Community Inspector General, Grassley led a bipartisan call for the president to comply with the statute’s notice requirement. He renewed the request in a follow-up letter also seeking the reasons for the announced removal of the State Department Inspector General.
Grassley raised similar concerns in 2009 when President Obama placed AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin on administrative leave and announced plans to terminate him, citing a lack of confidence. Walpin was never reinstated to his position.