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House Democrats seek protections for inspectors general

House oversight committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney‎, D-N.Y., outlined a series of reasons an inspector general could be dismissed. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
House oversight committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney‎, D-N.Y., outlined a series of reasons an inspector general could be dismissed. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

May 22 (UPI) -- House Democrats on Friday introduced legislation to protect inspectors general from political retaliation after President Donald Trump fired five watchdogs in the past three months.

Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said the bill -- the Inspector General Independence Act -- would allow an inspector general to be fired only under certain circumstances and would require documentation be sent to Congress.

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"As the chairwoman of the oversight committee, I know firsthand how critical it is to have experienced, competent and independent inspectors general at each agency," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said.

"Unfortunately, this bill has become necessary because the Trump administration has launched a campaign against inspectors general for doing their jobs, for investigating waste, fraud and abuse, for reporting the truth, and for holding this administration accountable."

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The bill comes one week after Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and acting Transportation Department Inspector General Mitch Behm. In recent months, he's also fired acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine -- who also served on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee; Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson; and acting Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm.

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Trump came under criticism for Linick's firing in particular because the watchdog had launched an investigation into allegations that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a staffer run personal errands, including picking up dry cleaning and walking his dog.

Pompeo denied the allegations and said he should've requested Linick's firing before the probe began. Trump said he was unaware of what investigations Linick was conducting and that he fired the watchdog because Pompeo requested it.

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Pompeo also said it's "patently false" that he sought retaliation against Linick.

The legislation lays out the conditions under which an inspector general may be fired, including documented permanent incapacity; neglect of duty; malfeasance; conviction of a felony or conduct involving moral turpitude; knowing violation of a law or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; abuse of authority; or inefficiency.

"The Trump administration has repeatedly demonstrated complete disregard for independent oversight," said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., chairman of the government operations subcommittee.

"This legislation will protect inspectors general from undue political interference and retribution for simply carrying out their responsibilities. The independence of Its is essential to accountability that is essential to our democracy. Silence and inaction by Congress will only embolden this reckless behavior."

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