After Trump’s unprecedented attacks on inspectors general and whistleblowers, Biden must strengthen protections

A recent report in The Washington Post that Donald Trump obstructed more than half a dozen oversight probes offered more confirmation of his hostility towards independent oversight of the Executive Branch. Trump’s spate of inspectors general firings and whistleblower attacks underscore why President Joe Biden’s administration and Congress must protect IGs from retaliatory dismissals and whistleblowers from reprisal. Trump ousted Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community IG for upholding the law in the Ukraine whistleblower complaint that led to his first impeachment. He fired Glenn Fine, the Pentagon’s acting IG and imminent chair of the federal panel that would oversee Trump’s management of the coronavirus relief package shortly after. Trump’s administration openly undermined whistleblowers’ credibility, emboldening threats to expose their identity or cause them physical harm. In the wake of these attacks, Biden has a significant opportunity to check corruption and wrongdoing in government.  He must distinguish himself from Trump by embracing reform to the federal whistleblowing system. He should pledge to appoint qualified, nonpolitical IGs to fill vacant positions, and fire them only for good cause, and after appropriately communicating his reasons with Congress.

The Biden administration can also elevate support of whistleblowers by implementing the recommendations for protections in Accountability 2021, an effort Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization contributed its expertise to foster stronger accountability in government.

Lisa Rosenberg
Executive Director, Open The Government