Donald Trump moved to replace the top watchdog at the Department of Health and Human Services after her office released a report on the shortages in testing and personal protective gear at hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a Friday night announcement, the White House nominated a permanent inspector general to take the reins from Christi Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general who has run the office since January.
The White House nominated Jason Weida, an assistant United States attorney in Boston, as permanent inspector general. The announcement said Weida was chosen because he has overseen “numerous complex investigations in healthcare and other sectors.” He must be confirmed by the Senate.
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Grimm’s removal follows a purge of high-profile federal officials and inspectors general whose work has been critical of the president. Inspectors general at large agencies serve at the pleasure of the president, but they are considered independent monitors for waste, fraud and abuse.
Trump laced into Grimm at a news conference in April, after her staff report found “severe shortages” of testing kits, delays in getting coronavirus results and “widespread shortages” of masks and other equipment at US hospitals.
The president demanded to know who wrote the report, calling the findings “wrong”. He then accused reporters of having withheld that Grimm had worked in the Obama administration.
“Where did he come from, the inspector general? What’s his name? No, what’s his name? What’s his name?” Trump responded on 6 April, when asked about the report, which he said was politically biased. He then attacked Grimm on Twitter, writing: “Why didn’t the IG, who spent eight years with the Obama Administration (did she report on the failed H1N1 swine flu debacle where 17,000 people died?), want to talk to the admirals, generals, VP and others in charge, before doing her report.”
Grimm is a career investigator and auditor who joined the inspector general’s office, one of the federal government’s largest, in 1999 when Bill Clinton was president. She has served in Republican and Democratic administrations and is not a political appointee.
She took over the inspector general’s office in an acting capacity in January from another acting official, who retired.
A spokeswoman for the IG’s office said Grimm will remain in her current role as principal deputy inspector general.
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