Scandal-Plagued Trump Cabinet Member Just Replaced His Department's Inspector General with a Political Appointee

Scandal-Plagued Trump Cabinet Member Just Replaced His Department's Inspector General with a Political Appointee

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is plagued by scandals — facing about a dozen different investigations of his conduct — but he may have found a solution to his oversight woes: replacing the person investigating him with a political stooge.


The Hill reported first Wednesday morning that the Interior Department Acting Inspector General Mary Kendall will be replaced by Suzanne Israel Tufts, who has been serving in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As an assistant HUD secretary, Tufts has already been confirmed by the Senate — meaning she can be installed in Kendall's place without another vote. 

The report notes that President Barack Obama had tried to confirm Kendall officially as the department IG in 2015 — which would have removed "acting" from her title. But at that time, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was leading an intransigent opposition to Obama appointments, and she was blocked.

Now, Zinke and the Trump administration will have the ability to replace a career official with a political appointee who could potentially wipe the slate clean of the investigations against the Interior Secretary if she so chooses.

Even if Tufts doesn't take such a brazen approach, any outcomes of her investigations of the sitting secretary will likely be tainted by the dubious manner of her appointment.

"This is a very big deal," said Michael Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general. "Politicizing the oversight function is dangerous, especially in the absence of any Congressional oversight. Changing IGs in the midst of multiple serious investigations of the agency's head should raise alarm bells everywhere."

NBC News reported that Kendall appeared to have no knowledge of the change when The Hill's report was published, which cited a department-wide email from HUD Secretary Ben Carson announcing the move. 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.