Trump has fired another government watchdog, this time the inspector general who was investigating transportation secretary Elaine Chao for taking actions that benefit her husband Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnell who has been fiercely shielding Trump from facing any consequences of his corruption and venality. It is a circle of corruption and cover up. The replacement is, of course, a loyalist.
Trump’s decision to sideline DOT acting IG Mitch Behm (who has 17 years of experience with OIG) was lost in the shuffle of outrage following the announcement that Trump planned to fire the State Department IG, but potential conflicts of interest abound. The most high profile is the DOT OIG’s review of allegations that Secretary Chao gave Senator McConnell’s constituents special treatment and helped steer millions of federal dollars to Kentucky as he is facing low approval ratings and a tough reelection bid.
As Senate Majority Leader, McConnell was integral to the Senate’s consideration of Howard Elliott’s nomination to lead PHMSA. Now McConnell will also be instrumental to Eric Soskin’s potential confirmation as permanent IG. Soskin is a Justice Department trial lawyer“involved in some hot-button immigration and civil rights cases.” These moves will leave oversight of the Chao-McConnell investigation in the hands of Trump administration officials who McConnell has effectively endorsed. In the case of Ellinott, as Secretary, Chao maintains authority to fire him from PHMSA. As CREW has pointed out before, this situation poses a huge conflict of interest. How can the American people expect transparency and accountability when the watchdogs must pass a loyalty test from the President and be approved by officials impacted by their investigations?
Inspectors General are meant to be apolitical and independent, so they do not typically come from among an administration’s pool of political appointees. But Elliott’s appointment is not the first time the Trump administration has sought to install a political appointee as an acting IG amid high profile investigations. In 2018, the administration abruptly moved a political appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to serve as the acting IG for the Interior Department, overseeing multiple investigations into then-Secretary Ryan Zinke’s conduct. The Washington Post called the move “an unusual choice for a role that is traditionally nonpartisan.” Thankfully, public pressure led the administration to reverse course on a number of controversial acting IG appointments.
These people are shameless.