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Two Democrats roll out bill to protect inspectors general from politically motivated firing

Two Democrats roll out bill to protect inspectors general from politically motivated firing
© Bonnie Cash

A pair of Democratic lawmakers unveiled legislation on Thursday to protect inspectors general (IG) from politically motivated firings. 

The bill — which was sponsored by Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Senate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night MORE (D-Conn.) and Rep. Jim CooperJim CooperHouse Democrat to DeJoy: 'Is your backup plan to be pardoned like Roger Stone?' House Democrats call on State Department for information on Uighur prisoner Ekpar Asat Pelosi weighing bringing House back from August recess early over USPS issues: reports MORE (D-Tenn.) — gives Senate-confirmed agency watchdogs a seven-year term in office, with the ability to serve more than one term.

Under the bill, the inspectors general could only be removed from office early for "permanent incapacity, inefficiency, neglect of duty, malfeasance, or conviction of a felony or conduct involving moral turpitude."

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“We simply cannot allow President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE to weaponize independent oversight positions in his administration to reward his friends, punish his political enemies, and cover up wrongdoing," Murphy said in a statement. 

Cooper added the removal of the inspectors general "without just cause is reckless and appears to be political retaliation."

The legislation comes after President Trump's decision to sideline multiple inspectors general within his administration, which has sent shockwaves through Washington. 

Eight senators — including Republicans Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election This week: Clock ticks on chance for coronavirus deal MORE (Maine), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Republicans: Supreme Court won't toss ObamaCare Barrett sidesteps Democratic questions amid high-stakes grilling MORE (Iowa) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal 10 bellwether counties that could signal where the election is headed The Memo: Trump's second-term chances fade MORE (Utah) — sent a letter to Trump on Wednesday asking him to turn over a more detailed reasoning for his decision to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, saying the brief letter he sent the House and Senate Intelligence committees did not meet legal requirements. 

"Congressional intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the statute," they wrote, adding that they want to confirm there were "clear, substantial reasons" for Atkinson's removal.
 
Trump defended the decision to fire Atkinson during a press conference on Saturday, calling Atkinson a "disgrace" who did a "terrible job." Atkinson, who handled the whistleblower complaint at the center of the impeachment inquiry, said in a statement that he believed Trump fired him for carrying out his "legal obligations."  

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In addition to firing Atkinson, Trump named new inspectors general for the Department of Education, Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense. 

He also nominated someone to fill a new IG position to oversee funds tied to the coronavirus relief legislation, replacing Glenn Fine, who had served as the acting Pentagon IG for roughly four years and been named by a group of his peers on the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. 

Murphy said on Tuesday that he was drafting the legislation amid reports that Trump would replace a total of seven IGs. 

"This is getting ridiculous," he tweeted. "I’m drafting legislation to give all Inspectors General protected 7 year terms. Sound like a good idea?"