May 5 (UPI) — President Donald Trump’s selection to serve as inspector general for coronavirus relief funds pledged to remain independent during a hearing before the Senate on Tuesday.
Senators questioned Brian Miller, who currently serves as senior associate counsel at the Office of White House Counsel, about whether Trump would influence how he reports to Congress and on his opinion of Trump’s handling of past inspectors general.
In response to a question from Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Miller said he did not plan to seek presidential approval before “investigating contacts, issuing reports or communicating with Congress.”
Miller added he would inform Congress “immediately” if any agencies asked him to withhold information and would consider efforts to allocate money to states “for political gain” a violation he would review.
The questions came after Trump issued a statement on March 27 saying the inspector general would not be permitted or required to report to Congress without presidential supervision.
In the role, Miller would be tasked with overseeing a $500 billion Treasury Department fund established in the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The senators also asked Miller, who has worked at the White House since December 2018, whther he was involved in the firing of intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson last month.
“I’m just not familiar with the facts or the law in that situation, so I’m reluctant to give an opinion where I don’t have all the facts,” he said.
Miller also declined to comment on Trump’s removal of other inspectors general.
“My experience as an inspector general is that an inspector general always faces the possibility they will be fired,” he said. “You just have to do your job and let the consequences be what they may be.”
Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., told Miller he had “no doubt” he would be fired from the inspector general role if he went against Trump’s wishes.
“I will be independent. If the president removes me, he removes me. If I am unable to do my job, I will resign. But I will not comment on the White House counsel’s operation,” he said.