The move comes as Trump makes a broad push against inspectors general scrutinizing his actions.
“Mr. Fine is no longer on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee,” Dwrena Allen, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon inspector general’s office, confirmed. She added that Fine will return to his Senate-confirmed post as principal deputy inspector general of the Pentagon.
Fine’s removal is Trump’s latest incursion into the community of independent federal watchdogs — punctuated most dramatically by his late Friday ouster of the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, whose handling of a whistleblower report ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment.
Trump has also begun sharply attacking Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm, following a report from her office that described widespread testing delays and supply issues at the nation’s hospitals.
“Another Fake Dossier!” Trump tweeted, mentioning Grimm’s tenure as inspector general during the Obama administration. He didn’t mention, though, that Grimm has been serving as a federal watchdog since 1999, spanning administrations of both parties.
Trump’s targeting of Atkinson drew an unusual rebuke from Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the Justice Department who also oversees a council of inspectors general. Horowitz said Atkinson handled the whistleblower matter appropriately and defended the broader IG community.
“The Inspector General Community will continue to conduct aggressive, independent oversight of the agencies that we oversee,” he said in a statement after Atkinson’s ouster. Atkinson, too, issued a lengthy statement Saturday accusing Trump of removing him for following whistleblower laws.
Trump’s allies in Congress have mostly ignored his recent moves against inspectors general, though Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) recently said they’d ask the administration for a fuller explanation about Atkinson’s ouster. On Tuedsay, Grassley offered gentle advice to Trump, urging him to consider IG findings as “a TO DO list & not criticism.”