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Trump pick to oversee rescue spending pledges impartiality

Last Updated May 5, 2020 at 2:28 pm EDT

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, left, and ranking member Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, right, talk during a hearing with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s choice to oversee a significant chunk of the $2 trillion economic rescue law is pledging to conduct audits and investigations “with fairness and impartiality.”

Brian Miller, a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office, goes before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday for his nomination as special inspector general for pandemic recovery. The post would place him in charge of overseeing a roughly $500 billion Treasury fund for industry created as part of the economic rescue law approved in late March.

In prepared testimony, Miller pledged to be vigilant in protecting the integrity and independence of his office and vowed “to seek the truth in all matters that come before me and to use my authority and resources to uncover fraud, waste and abuse.”

Miller has worked at the Justice Department and was inspector general for nearly a decade at the General Services Administration, which oversees thousands of federal contracts. While he is respected in the oversight community, Miller’s role in the White House counsel’s office — which led Trump’s defence during impeachment — is troubling, Democrats and watchdog groups said.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, top Democrat on the banking panel, said he questions whether Miller will be able to hold the Trump administration accountable for how it administers the business program and “guarantee that corporations getting taxpayer money put their workers first.?

“Mr. Miller will be called upon to answer how he will ensure he is independent and will hold the administration accountable,” Brown said in a statement.

Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Miller’s nomination is part of a pattern of “roadblocks thrown up” by Trump to block oversight of his administration.

In recent weeks, Trump has fired an inspector general tied to his impeachment and sidelined another who was set to lead a group of inspectors general overseeing the rescue package. On Friday night, Trump moved to replace yet another inspector general, an acting official who criticized the coronavirus response by federal health officials.

Trump also said in signing the rescue law that he will resist oversight provisions.

“All of this taken together means real oversight will be met with retribution, which makes it all the more important,’’ Bookbinder said.

Matthew Daly And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press

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