This piece originally appeared in The Washington Post.
In recent days, President Trump has removed the State Department inspector general with no justification, abruptly replaced the Transportation Department acting inspector general, and attacked a whistleblower who criticized the administration’s handling of the pandemic. This behavior isn’t new for Trump, but it has made abundantly clear that he feels emboldened to attack anyone who seeks to hold his administration accountable.
Such conduct is anathema to a functioning democracy. And it’s past time for Congress to step in, giving inspectors general and whistleblowers the additional protections that lawmakers have resisted for too long.
This is a moment when oversight should be encouraged, not undermined. With the federal government spending trillions to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, there is an accompanying urgency to ensure rigorous oversight of this spending.
Inspectors general at Cabinet departments and major agencies are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. But these inspectors general are, by the very nature of their jobs, supposed to be independent. They are different from ordinary political appointees and therefore should be treated differently.