Glenn Fine
© Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
Glenn Fine
Glenn Fine, who was ousted last month as the Pentagon's acting watchdog by President Donald Trump, has resigned from the Defense Department inspector general's office in the latest of a series of departures across the executive branch.

Fine, who was the principal deputy inspector general, announced his resignation in a statement Tuesday extolling the importance of independent watchdogs.

"The role of Inspectors General is a strength of our system of government," Fine said. "They provide independent oversight to help improve government operations in a transparent way. They are a vital component of our system of checks and balances, and I am grateful to have been part of that system.

"After many years in the DoJ and DoD OIGs, I believe the time has come for me to step down and allow others to perform this vital role," he added. "I wish the men and women of the DoD OIG and the Inspector General Community continued success in these important responsibilities."

Fine's last day will be June 1, according to an email he sent employees in the inspector general's office announcing his departure.

Fine's departure comes after he became embroiled in Trump's incursion into the community of independent federal watchdogs.

The president replaced Fine as the Pentagon's acting inspector general, a job he'd held on an acting basis since early 2016 in the Obama administration, in April when he tapped EPA watchdog Sean O'Donnell to take over the job in addition to his current duties. Fine returned to his Senate-confirmed post in the inspector general's office.

Fine had also been tapped to lead a panel to oversee the implementation of the $2 trillion relief law enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But removing him as Pentagon inspector general also effectively removed Fine from the pandemic oversight role.

Fine's departure prompted an outcry from Democratic lawmakers Tuesday, who blamed Trump for the surprise resignation.

"Every day, we are seeing more examples of how President Trump — enabled by Senate Republicans — has been abusing this pandemic to eliminate honest, independent public servants and inspectors general who are willing to speak truth to power," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote on Twitter.

"There can be no doubt that this is a direct result of President Trump's actions," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House Oversight Committee, called Fine's resignation "another stain on the Trump administration and another blow to accountable democracy."

"Inspector General Fine is an honorable public servant who was attacked and demoted by the President simply because he sought to bring oversight and accountability to the federal government," Connolly said.

Trump has also fired or replaced watchdogs in agencies across the federal government in recent months, including firing Michael Atkinson as inspector general of the intelligence community and Steve Linick as the top State Department watchdog. The rolling shakeup has stoked the ire of Democrats on Capitol Hill, many of whom blasted Trump at the time for replacing Fine.

Fine joined the Pentagon inspector general's office in 2015. He was the Justice Department's inspector general from 2000 to 2011, serving across three presidents of both parties.

In his email, Fine praised his colleagues' "independent, non-partisan oversight" of the Pentagon's bureaucracy. Among other accomplishments, he pointed to the watchdog office's role in overseeing the Defense Department's first-ever full financial audit.

"This work has been valuable to the DoD, the Congress, and the public, and has provided oversight envisioned by the Inspector General Act," Fine wrote.

Trump has nominated Jason Abend, a senior policy adviser with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to be the permanent Pentagon inspector general. The Senate has not yet held a confirmation hearing for Abend.