It was about a month ago when a rather brutal report was issued by the Inspector General office for the Department of Health and Human Services, pointing to U.S. hospitals faced with a dire scarcity of vital medical supplies. The document was based on direct nationwide interviews with medical establishments. As we discussed at the time, the best response from the White House should have been to read the paper, digest its conclusions and take measures to fix issues. In reality, this would be in line with the reason the government first came up with inspectors general: they conduct independent assessments, find problems, and give lawmakers a chance to fix them.
Yet Donald Trump made a predictable and mistaken decision, given a choice between acting on objective reports and punishing the official who established the issue. During the weekend the New York Times reported:
Sure the president and his staff love news dump on Friday night, don’t they? To the point that the White House has filed a lawsuit against Christi Grimm, Trump has claimed that during the Obama administration she was at her job, which in his opinion automatically discredits her work. In fact, Grimm served for a few decades in the IG’s office — including eight years in the Bush / Cheney administration — and there’s absolutely nothing to indicate that the HHS report was flawed or distorted for political purposes.
Trump also laughed at Grimm for not having completed a review of the federal response to the H1N1 virus. But truth shortly after it reared its head again. The HHS general inspector actually performed a detailed, multi-part analysis of the federal response to HIN1. It is an information Trump probably would have looked up before launching his tantrum.
White House is Furious
But let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture, either. Trump shot the IG into the intelligence community late on a Friday in early April. The Republican expelled the IG a few days later and helped administer the $2.2 trillion Economic Assistance program. Today, the door opens to another inspector general, not for bad results. But it is for having the audacity to do her job properly. Also, to provide the government with details that the president considers politically inconvenient.
Lately, the New York Times stated that the White House seems to be engaging. It is in a “power struggle against semi-independent inspectors general around the government.”
It motivates by the president’s “impatience with independent voices inside the government that he finds unfair.”
Similarly, David Ignatius of the Washington Post called Trump out for “a persistent war — waged even in the middle”
At the same time, the president sends out a warning in the executive branch to every other inspector general. If any who exercise independence will expect White House retaliation. It may be defying the idea of getting general inspectors, but Trump does not seem to notice.
Four days after the study raised concerns from the likes of Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the White House removed Grimm from HHS. They indicated that the president doesn’t care much for the government transparency interest of GOP senators.