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

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Memo: Trump's second-term chances fade Romney slams Trump for refusing to denounce QAnon on national television Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy MORE (R-Utah) on Friday released a letter with Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Overnight Defense: National Guard says no federal requests for election security help | Dems accuse VA head of misusing resources | Army official links COVID-19 to troop suicides Democrats accuse VA head of misusing resources to stump for Trump, vulnerable GOP senators MORE (D-Mont.) calling on President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus 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 BidenBiden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus Rally crowd chants 'lock him up' as Trump calls Biden family 'a criminal enterprise' Undecided voters in Arizona wary of Trump, crave stability 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.