Donald Trump is reportedly in the process of replacing a total of seven inspectors general (IGs) who don't meet his decidedly low standards for a position tasked with rooting out corruption and making sure the government works for the people. Those changes appear to include the high-profile dismissals of the IGs overseeing the national intelligence community, the Pentagon and $2 trillion pandemic relief fund, and the Education Department, among others, according to Real Clear Politics reporter Susan Crabtree.
Taken at face value, the systemic purge appears bad enough for a president always looking to advantage himself at the expense of the American people, whether it's through corrupting the 2020 election or lining his own pockets along with those of his family and friends. But the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, which monitors the executive branch for ethical violations, sees Trump's latest actions as something much more sinister and telling than just a rabid assault on government oversight.
Trump's effort to terrorize and replace inspectors general across the federal government is "a late-stage move in an authoritarian coup against the rule of law," wrote Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, in a lengthy Twitter thread on Tuesday. Shaub, who finally resigned his post during Trump’s tenure, detailed the death spiral of a functional government, from presidential profiteering to suspect policy choices to the firing of top officials at investigatory agencies like the FBI and Justice Department.
But no matter how many roadblocks Trump destroyed, Republican lawmakers refused to lift a finger and soon both inspectors general and whistleblowers themselves were at risk.
"What began with the fall of the ethics program is entering the end game with the potential fall of the Inspector General community," Shaub warned. "The government is failing us, safeguards that took two centuries to build have crumbled, and fascism is eyeing this republic like lunch."
What now stands between our beleaguered republic and fascism is the American people, Shaub concluded.
"All is not lost," he wrote. "That's why I want you to understand how big a deal it is that Trump is going after Inspectors General. This is a late-stage move in an authoritarian coup against the rule of law."
Naturally, Trump has launched his full-scale assault on independent watchdogs amid a pandemic that should be devouring every second of every minute of every hour of his day. But it's not, because no one's death but his own is of particular concern to Trump; he’s just priming the pump to squeeze whatever he damn well chooses out of the government, assuming he is able to win reelection. Given the chance, Trump will squeeze the U.S. republic dry, just like Russian President Vladimir Putin has bilked billions from his own country.
What stands between that dismal destiny and a functional democracy is now the American people and November 2020. Get ready, folks: We need every damn one of you.