Another inspector general replaced by a crony

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.


  1. Ridana says

    The conflict of interest is even more ridiculous than that. To quote Wonkette quoting CREW (emphasis mine):

    But wait, there’s more! Elliott already works in the Transportation Department, where he’s the administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. He’ll be staying in that job and also working as acting IG in a “dual-hat arrangement,” according to a DOT spokesperson. CREW points out there’s just a hell of a big chance of that creating conflicts of interest:

    Elliott will potentially oversee audits or investigations into PHMSA, and be responsible for ensuring that the administrator of PHMSA (him) complies with recommendations made by OIG (led by him). It’s hard to understate the significance of this conflict of interest. Even if Elliott recuses from OIG matters related to PHMSA, which he absolutely should do, he can still discipline or fire OIG officials working for him, if he doesn’t like or agree with their handling of the Chao-McConnell investigation or PHMSA.

    And while Elliott would supposedly be “independent” when wearing his acting IG hat, Chao is still his boss when he’s wearing his “I ❤️ Laying Pipe” hat as head of PHMSA. Gosh, could that possibly influence his willingness to continue the investigation into his boss’s alleged Kentucky shenanigans?

  2. lanir says

    Also… Everything mentioned or quoted above is just the head of this issue. Expect that when these uniquely unqualified assholes are replaced that the republicans will suddenly see the conspiracy… in their replacement, not in their appointment, of course. Expect to see a whole lot of that whenever some non-republican eventually holds the oval office next. They will suddenly find a vast conspiracy to… actually replace Donald Trump with his duly elected successor and the criminal duplicity will be not allowing his administration to just keep going.

  3. rich rutishauser says

    “These people are shameless.”

    Shameless is a dot in their rear view mirror, once again Trump and his cronies need new words to describe how bad they are.


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