Pentagon's deputy inspector general resigns; latest in watchdog role to depart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Defense Department’s deputy inspector general resigned on Tuesday, more than a month after President Donald Trump removed him as the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, becoming the latest official in a federal oversight role to depart.

An aerial view of the Pentagon in Washington August 31, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Glenn Fine’s resignation comes after the Trump administration removed him and three other government inspectors general, who seek to root out government waste, fraud and abuse, in recent weeks.

Most recently the State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, was fired. That ousting prompted heavy criticism from senior Democratic lawmakers.

“I believe the time has come for me to step down and allow others to perform this vital role,” Fine said in a statement.

“The role of Inspectors General is a strength of our system of government. They provide independent oversight to help improve government operations in a transparent way,” Fine added.

Fine had been performing the duties of the Pentagon’s lead inspector general when he was removed by Trump in early April. In that role, he had been charged with overseeing the government’s $2.3 trillion coronavirus response before Trump removed him.

Fine reverted to being the No. 2 official in the inspector general’s office after his ouster as the acting inspector general.

Democratic lawmakers praised Fine and said his resignation was a blow to accountability.

“There can be no doubt that this is a direct result of President Trump’s actions,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who leads the Committee on Oversight and Reform, said on Tuesday.

Earlier in May, Trump ousted Christi Grimm, who led the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. He accused her of having produced a “fake dossier” on shortages at American hospitals on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.

Grimm was testifying before a congressional committee on Tuesday.

In April, the Republican president notified Congress that he was firing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community. Atkinson was involved in triggering a probe last year that resulted in Trump’s impeachment.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by Franklin Paul, Jonathan Oatis and Dan Grebler