A late Friday announcement regarding President Donald Trump's nominee to oversee the implementation of the recently-passed $4.5 trillion coronavirus relief bill was regarded by government watchdogs as the president's latest attempt to protect the interests of powerful corporations while Americans are focused on the coronavirus pandemic.
The White House announced that Trump would nominate Brian D. Miller, a special assistant to the president and senior associate counsel in the White House Counsel office, to oversee the prevention of fraud and abuse in the relief program. The law includes minimal relief for the public and what progressives have derided as a $500 billion "slush fund" for corporations, allowing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to "bail out any corporation he pleases, with almost no conditions," as Patriotic Millionaires chair Morris Pearl wrote last month.
Late last year, Miller informed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that the White House would not participate in its investigation of the Trump administration's decision to hold Ukrainian military aid, in connection with the president's impeachment inquiry.
The potential appointment of a White House lawyer with close ties to the president to the position of Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery heightened critics' concerns that there will be little meaningful oversight of the relief package.
The nomination amounted to "a mockery of independence," tweeted Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "Trump clearly wants a lapdog, not a watchdog."
Fox in charge of the henhouse. A mockery of independence, putting a Trump lawyer in charge of oversight, with $500 billion in taxpayer money at stake. Trump clearly wants a lapdog, not a watchdog. https://t.co/apXsi0j84r
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) April 4, 2020
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), noted that the White House announced Miller's nomination on the same night Trump said he was firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who alerted Congress to a whistleblower complaint last year regarding Trump's discussions with Ukraine.
On the same night the President said he’s firing the inspector general who exposed the Ukraine scandal, he also said he’s nominating a White House lawyer to be inspector general for the bailout, a position that must be independent. It’s really really bad.https://t.co/tlTnYzeQwb
— Noah Bookbinder (@NoahBookbinder) April 4, 2020
"People need to be paying attention to the anti-democratic steps the President is taking while people are appropriately preoccupied with the current pandemic," Bookbinder wrote. "Some of the most outrageous steps were on a Friday night."