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Presidential Removal of IGs Under the Inspector General Act

CRS via LC – Presidential Removal of IGs Under the Inspector General Act May 22, 2020: “President Trump has recently removed or replaced a number of acting and permanent Inspectors General (IGs), including the Intelligence Community IG, the State Department IG, and acting IGs at the Department of Transportation and Department of Defense. These actions have stirred both immediate concern by some within Congress and a larger conversation on IG independence. While governing statutes provide that IGs are intended to be “independent and objective units” tasked with auditing and investigating agency programs, they are not entirely insulated from presidential influence. In most cases it is the President that both selects and removes IGs, subject to checks on that authority discussed below. With respect to his replacement of the acting IGs, President Trump appears to have taken action permitted by the Vacancies Act, which generally provides the President with discretion to fill temporarily vacancies in positions requiring Senate confirmation. That law does not appear expressly to restrict the President’s authority to replace acting officials. With respect to the permanent IGs, who had been confirmed to their position by the Senate, the governing statute is principally the Inspector General Act of 1978 (IG Act). That law requires the President to notify Congress of the reasons for the removal of an IG not later than 30days before taking action. In each recent instance where President Trump removed a permanent IG, he gave advanced notice to Congress, and in each case justified the action on the ground that he “no longer” had “confidence” in the official to be removed. Some Members of Congress expressed concern about the articulated reasons for these removals, including a bipartisan group of Senators who concluded that “an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements” of the IG Act.The House-passed Heroes Act includes several provisions that seek to provide IGs with further independence from presidential influence, and the bill would also amend the IG Act’s notification requirements to extend to situations where an IG is placed on administrative leave This Sidebar addresses the removal notification provision of the IG Act and the requirements it may impose upon the President…”

See also PoliticoTrump’s drive against watchdogs faces constitutional reckoning – The inspector general system is being tested like never before in the Trump era.

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