An email from the Trump transition team on the evening of Jan. 13 instructed all transition team leaders to “reach out tonight and inform” the inspectors general in their agencies “that they are being held over on a temporary basis.”
The email shows that the effort to replace the inspectors was not limited to a handful of agencies, but that it was intended to take aim at inspectors general across government departments.
Moreover, the email from Giblin suggests involvement at a more senior level of the transition. The email urges transition team leaders to report back to her or a person whose name is blacked out in the document presented at the hearing today. But a person familiar with the email said that the other person is Justin Clark, a Republican lawyer from West Hartford, Conn., who was deputy national political director of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and who has been named deputy assistant to the president and the White House director of intergovernmental affairs.
The email was obtained by members of the House Oversight Committee, which is holding a hearing today on inspectors general.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said that “this email demonstrates that these calls were not isolated incidents.” He added, “Whoever approved these calls had absolutely horrendous judgment and should not be allowed anywhere near the reins of power.”
However, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said that the White House had told him the phone calls to inspectors general were a “mistake” and the work of a “junior person.” The inspectors general were later told to disregard the initial calls.
“I want to let you know that I’ve spoken with the general counsel at the White House on this topic,” Chaffetz said. “I think it’s safe to say that was a mistake, they wish it hadn’t happened, it’s not their approach, it’s not their intention.”
He added, “With each new administration, I’m sure there’s a learning curve, and hopefully they’ve learned that lesson.”
After scandals in federal programs, inspectors general were placed in a dozen agencies by an act of Congress in 1978. The law tasked the inspectors general with conducting audits and investigations of their departments and issuing reports to Congress and their agency heads. Their goal is to ferret out deficiencies and problems for corrective action. Today there are 73 inspectors general, nearly half of whom are appointed by the president, while the rest are appointed by their agency chiefs. There are nine vacancies among those appointed by the president.