Romney warns Trump: Don't interfere with coronavirus relief oversight

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog Coronavirus and America's economic miracle Former Romney strategist joins anti-Trump Lincoln Project MORE (R-Utah) on Friday released a letter with Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Memorial Day during COVID-19: How to aid our country's veterans Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections MORE (D-Mont.) calling on President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE to comply with the oversight requirements Congress attached to the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package signed into law last week.

“With trillions of taxpayer dollars being spent, it is critically important for the Administration to ensure full transparency and willingness for independent oversight,” Romney and Tester wrote in the April 3 letter to Trump.

The senators noted that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act established three level of oversight for the hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid: a special inspector general, a congressional oversight committee and a panel of inspectors general known as the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC).

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Romney and Tester called on the president to report his administration’s plans for spending the funds to Congress.

“As you work to implement COVID-19 legislation, we ask that you provide Congress a detailed plan on how the government plans to execute these funds and what accountability measures are being put in place to ensure our taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively,” they wrote.

Trump sparked controversy last week when he signaled in a signing statement attached to the $2.2 trillion law that his White House would supervise reports to Congress from the special inspector general for coronavirus relief, known as the SIGPR.

Citing Article II of the Constitution, Trump wrote: “I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause.”

Romney and Tester on Friday warned the president not to interfere in the inspector general’s quarterly reports to Congress.

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“We expect that the Special Inspector General will fulfill its statutory responsibilities, and look forward to working with your administration to ensure robust oversight of taxpayer dollars,” they wrote.

The senators also raised concerns over the lack of permanent inspectors general at several departments and agencies tasked with implementing the coronavirus relief law, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Education.

Romney has emerged as one of Trump’s most outspoken critics in the Senate Republican Conference and has regularly taken heat from the president and his supporters as a result.

He was the only Senate Republican to vote to remove Trump from office at the end of the Senate impeachment trial earlier this year.

When Romney quarantined himself last month because of possible exposure to coronavirus, Trump joked, “Romney’s in isolation? Gee, that’s too bad.”

The president slammed the Utah senator in October as a “pompous ass” for criticizing his calls for other nations to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points Biden: 'We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us' MORE.

Tester is a moderate Democrat who won a tough reelection race in 2018 in a state that Trump carried by 20 points in 2016.