Tester, Grassley, Romney, Others Lead Call to Protect Independence of Inspectors General after Trump’s Abrupt Removal of Top Intelligence Watchdog

Bipartisan effort comes on the heels of President’s decision to also remove Chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today joined a bipartisan group of Senators in calling on President Trump to explain his decision to abruptly remove the top watchdog for the intelligence community. Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, James Lankford of Oklahoma, along with Democratic Senators Mark Warner of Virginia, Gary Peters of Michigan, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Dianne Feinstein of California joined Tester in the effort.

The 2008 Inspector General Reform Act requires the President to provide Congress with a written explanation at least 30 days prior to removing an inspector general. On Friday, President Trump defied that law by informing Congress of his intention to remove Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, citing a lack of confidence.

“Congressional intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the statute. This is in large part because Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing or failure to perform the duties of the office, and not for reasons unrelated to their performance, to help preserve IG independence,” the Senators wrote.

The senators also raised concern about Atkinson being immediately placed on paid administrative leave, effectively removing him from his post prior to 30-day expiration.

Earlier this week, President Trump removed Chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee Glenn Fine, who had been charged with overseeing the $2.2. trillion coronavirus recovery package. Tester called his removal “a thumb in the eye to any Montana taxpayer who stands to receive critically-needed financial relief” from the bill.

Tester recently teamed up with Senator Romney to urge the Trump Administration to ensure aggressive, independent oversight over the $2.2 trillion dollars Congress appropriated for virus relief. The Senators called on President Trump to ensure the independence of the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery-a position they worked to create within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act-and to provide Congress with details about its plans for rigorous oversight after President Trump signaled when signing the bill that he would not allow the position to report to Congress without Presidential supervision.

Full text of the Senators’ bipartisan letter can be found HERE.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresouces for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak.