Senate Whistleblower Caucus Backs Reappointment of Special Counsel

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a letter with the cofounder of the caucus that "Lerner has proven her ability to lead the agency effectively and fairly." Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a letter with the cofounder of the caucus that "Lerner has proven her ability to lead the agency effectively and fairly." Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner found her name among 23 Obama-era nominations that President Trump withdrew in late February.

Having run the Office of Special Counsel since 2011, she has continued since her five-year term expired last June under a one-year “carry-over period” allowed under Title 5, Section 1211 of the U.S. Code, her agency says. This means she would be forced to step down this coming June if Trump does not renominate her.

On Wednesday, her hypothetical candidacy got a boost from the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus. A March 22 letter from founders Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., a longtime whistleblower advocate who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to White House Counsel Don McGahn II said that: “Lerner has proven her ability to lead the agency effectively and fairly.  Ms. Lerner has substantially revitalized OSC, and under her leadership, the office has been proactive and responsive to our concerns. She has built trust and confidence on both sides of the aisle in her ability to objectively and diligently pursue the office’s mission.”

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The senators credited Lerner’s office with saving more than $200 million taxpayer dollars that otherwise would have been lost to fraud or mismanagement, and noted that the Judiciary Committee last year had approved her renomination.  

Though some in the whistleblower community have complained about Lerner’s tenure, many of them support her, including the Government Accountability Project, which backed her original nomination in 2011. “She’ll be a tough act to follow,” Tom Devine, the GAP legal director, told Government Executive, noting that the Trump administration so far does not appear to tolerate much dissent. “When she arrived, the office was a national disgrace. Now it has the most impressive track record in history.”

Lerner would like to continue serving—if emails released last year by WikiLeaks are authentic, they show her asking the Hillary Clinton campaign chairman to keep her candidacy in mind.

"I'm very proud of this agency's work and positive trajectory and it would be an honor to be asked to serve," Lerner told Government Executive.

This story was updated with a comment from Lerner late Friday afternoon. 

(Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)

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