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Trump’s Paranoid Watchdog Purge Is Still Going Strong

On Friday night, the White House announced a nomination for a new inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), yet another effort to weed out officials perceived to pose a threat to Donald Trump’s power. As the New York Times reports, the nomination looks to replace Christi Grimm, the principal deputy inspector of the department, following a report she released last month that disclosed the nationwide shortage of supplies for medical workers fighting coronavirus, and delayed access to COVID-19 testing kits at hundreds of medical centers.

When asked about the report at a news briefing in early April—a time when the president was already facing criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic—Trump denounced its findings as “wrong” and insisted that a reporter find him the name of the inspector general behind it. He also took his frustrations to Twitter, attacking Grimm’s report as “another fake dossier.” The president claimed that the report was politically biased after learning that Grimm had served under President Barack Obama’s administration, despite the fact that she began working in the inspector general office late in President Bill Clinton’s administration and also served under President George W. Bush. As the Times notes, “Ms. Grimm’s case in effect merged the conflict over Mr. Trump’s response to the outbreak with his determination to sweep out those he perceives to be speaking against him.”

Trump’s war on oversight has remained consistent even in the face of a public health crisis. As my colleague Eric Lutz notes, the president “has taken some of his most dramatic steps yet to remove [checks and balances on his power] since being acquitted by the Senate in January,” starting with the purging of officials like Alexander Vindman who testified against him in the House. Within a matter of days last month, Trump fired two inspector generals, first ousting Michael Atkinson—who deemed the whistleblower complaint credible last fall—and then Pentagon watchdog Glenn Fine, who had been tasked with overseeing the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. “Inspectors General are charged with doing independent oversight and exposing corruption,” tweeted House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff following Fine’s abrupt removal. “Their job is to uncover the truth. Exactly why Trump fears them.”

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