Though inspectors general are statutorily independent, their choice of targets to investigate may be influenced by partisans in Congress who press a timely case.
This Wednesday, following days of bumpy agency implementation of President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration and arrival of refugees, the Homeland Security Department inspector general announced that his office would “review DHS’ implementation of the recent executive order, ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.’ ” The review is being initiated in response to congressional requests and whistleblower and hotline complaints, said a statement from watchdog John Roth.
Roth’s office will also review Customs and Border Protection’s “adherence to court orders and allegations of individual misconduct on the part of DHS personnel. If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review,” the statement said.
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Roth had received a Jan. 29 letter from Illinois Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durban requesting the probe following several adjustments to the policy and widespread protests and criticism domestic and international.
The department itself received criticism in a Jan. 31 letter from Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., seeking documents on the rollout. Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform panel did not sign the letter but have also found fault with the handling of the Trump order.
Another Trump controversy that may draw in an inspector general is the still-unresolved question of whether Trump, following his election victory, can continue to lease and profit from the federally owned Old Post Office Building that his company, over the past three years, renovated as a luxury hotel.
On Thursday, Democratic Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., both of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote to the General Services Administration’s inspector general, Carol Ochoa, requesting a probe.
“Since President Trump took the oath of office, the Trump Old Post Office LLC appears to be in breach of the plain language of the lease agreement,” the senators wrote. “Despite the warning signs from members of Congress and ethics watchdogs, GSA chose not to take any action to address or enforce this provision of the lease or the other steps to mitigate the difficulties the lease creates for GSA and other government officials who oversee management of the agreement. Your office is in a unique position to review GSA’s management of the lease of the Old Post Office Building and identify any potential missteps.”
They copied Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s IG who also chairs the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.
A spokeswoman for the GSA IG told Government Executive, “We received the letter from Senators McCaskill and Carper. We are closely monitoring the Old Post Office matter.”