watchdog
August 12, 2020

The State Department's inspector general has found that during his tenure, Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson has made inappropriate and insensitive comments about religion, race, and sex.

In a report released Wednesday, the office wrote that "offensive or derogatory comments, based on an individual's race, color, sex, or religion, can create an offensive working environment and could potentially rise to a violation of Equal Employment Opportunity laws."

The office also said it found that Johnson's "demanding and hard-driving" management style hurt morale, and if he thought a staffer was being too cautious or resistant to "suggestions about what he felt strongly, he sometimes questioned their intentions or implied that he might have them replaced. This caused staff to grow wary of providing him with their best judgment."

Johnson, the co-owner of the New York Jets, had no diplomatic experience when he took on the role in August 2017. The inspector general's office said it has asked the State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs to conduct a further review and to take action, but the agency said it doesn't think this is necessary. Catherine Garcia

March 31, 2020

The inspectors general of U.S. federal agencies on Monday tapped Glenn Fine, the acting Pentagon inspector general, to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a body of 10 inspectors general who will oversee implementation of the massive $2.2 trillion package designed to shelter the U.S. economy from the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee Fine leads is one of three oversight boards Democrats insisted on including in the legislation, which gives Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin broad discretion over where to direct the huge pots of money.

Fine, who was Justice Department inspector general from 2000 to 2011 and has served as acting Defense Department inspector general for the past four years, has a good reputation in Washington. The other two oversight boards set up in the law are a congressional oversight committee, whose five members will be chosen by the Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, and a "special inspector general" charged with overseeing a $500 loan program for large businesses, states, and local governments. President Trump will pick that inspector general, though the Senate must confirm his nominee.

When Trump signed the law on Friday, he also issued a signing statement claiming the right to block that inspector general from reporting to Congress if the administration "unreasonably" withholds information on how the $500 billion is being disbursed. Under Trump's interpretation of the law, the inspector general can't inform Congress without "presidential supervision," undermining the new watchdog.

Fine's committee will have the broadest authority over the $2.2 trillion law, though, and has been vested with subpoena power and a mandate to conduct audits of all spending and contracts. Any suspected fraud, chicanery, or other wrongdoing will be investigated by the inspector general of the relevant department. "Glenn Fine has a good reputation as a tough federal prosecutor and former DOJ Inspector General, and must exercise his full oversight authority to ensure that the Trump administration implements the CARES Act as intended," Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday. Peter Weber

November 23, 2019

The Justice Department's internal watchdog report on the 2016 Russian election interference investigation is coming out in the next couple of weeks, and the early word is that it's a bit of a mixed bag, although the overall conclusion indicates that the investigation was handled properly and professionally.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to find that political bias did not hinder the FBI's investigation as President Trump and his supporters have argued, people familiar with the matter said. Trump has often made the case that many officials favored Hillary Clinton, which subsequently affected the outcome of the investigation. But there doesn't seem to be anything to that.

Still, as The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal point out, there are some elements of the report that will likely lead to more bickering between political factions.

Horowitz's report, which is expected to be released Dec. 9, did reportedly find that errors and lapses in judgment were made during the investigation. Most notably a "low-level" FBI lawyer reportedly inappropriately altered an email related to the surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser. There was reportedly a proper legal basis for the government's application to monitor the adviser in the first place, however, and the finding didn't change Horowitz's overall conclusion about the investigation.

Either way, a person familiar with the inspector general's investigation said "you can see how the warring factions will seize on the various parts of this to advance their respective narratives." In other words, this thing isn't over. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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