As many of us continue to deal with the enduring impact of COVID-19 on lives, families and our country, it’s easy and even normal to spend our days thinking only about this virus. It’s the focus of news broadcasts and email alerts, the focus of businesses thinking about how to weather a world of distancing, the focus of families homeschooling children, wondering how they’ll pay rent and whether they’ll get sick. The pandemic has created chaos that has drawn a thin and temporary curtain over Trump’s enduring incompetence and dishonesty — behind it, he is actively sabotaging oversight and the rule of law at the same insatiable rate.
We write to urge Americans to pay attention.
On May 16, President Trump fired the State Department’s Inspector General, Steve Linick, marking the fifth removal or replacement in the last three months. It has since emerged that Inspector General Linick was looking into the arms deal this administration made with Saudi Arabia, a deal that previously sparked an outcry on both sides of the aisle. And so, again, the administration has made a decision that would appear to be based on politics and personal interest.
It’s not the first or second time such questions have been raised, it’s one of many. Just a few weeks ago, Trump’s Justice Department dropped charges against former national security advisor Michael Flynn, a man consistently defended by President Trump despite having plead guilty of lying to the FBI – most likely to insulate the president. In filings for that case, more than 960 former Justice Department prosecutors accused Attorney General William P. Barr of appearing to use the Justice Department to serve the president’s personal political interests.
This is an enduring pattern in this administration, and that’s why we want you to pay attention.
In late March when we passed the CARES Act in Congress, we made clear that the money included in the bill for industry would not be a bailout with no strings attached. We fought for accountability, and we did not relent until the bill included a Congressional Commission, an Accountability Committee, and an inspector general. But, when the president signed the bill, he immediately made clear he would gag the inspector general, deciding what he would and would not share with Congress. Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine was chosen by his peers for the job, but before he had so much as a chance at oversight of those billions of dollars, President Trump replaced him, functionally removing the watchdog for these taxpayer funds.
Fine’s removal followed on the heels of another. Just a few days before, the president had fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, the man who alerted Congress to the whistleblower complaint that eventually resulted in his impeachment by the House of Representatives.
In his own words, the president said he no longer had confidence in Atkinson. But we have little doubt that, even as he should be leading our country through an economic and health crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen before, the president reached back to punish one more person he blames for his own misdeeds.
Those misdeeds, that pattern of abusing authority to get out from under any kind of accountability or oversight, that’s what brought us to impeachment in the first place. The pattern continues, and so we urge you to keep paying attention.
In a vacuum, and with everything else happening around us, it’s easy to overlook one incident. But we want you to pay attention — not to one political ideology or another, not to one political motivation or another, but to the pattern of this president and his administration. From defying congressional subpoenas to unprecedented and blatant interference at the Department of Justice on behalf of his friends to the removal of politically independent inspectors committed to the rule of law, his actions continue to demonstrate that he believes he’s above the law. The systems he continues to destroy undermine faith in our government, faith long-established through transparency and accountability. It’s a pattern built to protect his interests and one that maximizes his personal benefit.
We urge you, the American people, to pay attention.
U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman represents New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District, which includes parts of Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties.
U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark represents Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee represents California’s 13th Congressional District.
Original story here.