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What Do The Inspector General Firings Say About American Democracy?47:25
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Nominee for Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery at the US Department of the Treasury, Brian Miller, looks on ahead of a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 5, 2020. ( Salwan Georges/ POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Nominee for Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery at the US Department of the Treasury, Brian Miller, looks on ahead of a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 5, 2020. ( Salwan Georges/ POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The president has fired at least five inspectors general. It may be his right, but what does it say about political accountability and American democracy?

Guests

Joel Brenner, former inspector general for the National Security Agency, and later senior counsel to the NSA. Former head of U.S. counterintelligence under the Director of National Intelligence. Senior research fellow at MIT's Center for International Studies. Author of "Glass Houses: Privacy, Secrecy, and Cyber Insecurity in a Transparent World."

Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an expert on Congress and American politics. Author of many books, including “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism." (@NormOrnstein)

Charles Sykes, conservative political commentator. Editor-in-chief of the The Bulwark and host of The Bulwark Podcast. Author of many books, including "How the Right Lost Its Mind." (@SykesCharlie)

From The Reading List

Reuters: "Pentagon's deputy inspector general resigns; latest in watchdog role to depart" — "The Defense Department’s deputy inspector general resigned on Tuesday, more than a month after President Donald Trump removed him as the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, becoming the latest official in a federal oversight role to depart."

Politifact: "Trump has pushed out 5 inspectors general since April. Here’s who they are" — "With the U.S. consumed by the coronavirus, President Donald Trump has taken steps to purge his administration of several independent government watchdogs. The push has Democrats and government ethics experts saying he’s undermining a vital oversight apparatus."

Washington Post: "As Trump removes federal watchdogs, some loyalists replacing them have ‘preposterous’ conflicts" — "The political appointee President Trump installed last week to investigate waste, fraud and abuse at the Transportation Department is the same official in charge of one of the agency’s key divisions."

The Atlantic: "Congress Desperately Needs a Contingency Plan" — "What happens if the coronavirus pandemic reaches a point that requires all travel and mass gatherings in the United States to be suspended—and members of Congress cannot meet in the Capitol or elsewhere in Washington? What happens if enough members of Congress catch the virus, or are quarantined, that there is no longer a quorum to meet and conduct business?"

Washington Post: "Trump is stiffest challenge to Grassley’s self-appointed role as defender of inspectors general" — "The 665-word letter had gone, as expected, unanswered. So Sen. Charles E. Grassley fired off an email to the White House Counsel’s Office, pressing for an explanation as to why President Trump abruptly dismissed an inspector general who had played a key role in the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment."

Politico: "Trump railroads Republicans with new watchdog firing" — "Senate Republicans find themselves in a familiar place: steamrolled by President Donald Trump’s purge of government watchdogs and offering little indication of how they plan to stop him."

New York Times: "Inspector General’s Firing Puts Pompeo’s Use of Taxpayer Funds Under Scrutiny" — "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo swatted away questions about his use of government resources again and again last year."

CNBC: "House Democrats introduce inspector general protection bill after Trump fires several watchdogs" — "House Democrats on Friday announced a new bill to protect inspectors general from political retribution in response to President Donald Trump’s “relentless attacks” against government watchdogs."

Washington Post: "Opinion: Trump’s purge of inspectors general is alarming. His replacements may be worse." — "President Trump’s spate of inspector general removals this spring is alarming, and every American should be concerned about the state of federal government oversight. But the problem with Trump’s actions is not simply removing the watchdogs — it’s also the chilling effect left on those who remain and the fact that the president is replacing some of the ousted officials with thinly credentialed political loyalists."

This program aired on May 27, 2020.

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