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Speaking out: Inspectors-general keep government honest, said Joe Biden. Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake/File Photo

Speaking out: Inspectors-general keep government honest, said Joe Biden. Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake/File Photo

REUTERS

Speaking out: Inspectors-general keep government honest, said Joe Biden. Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake/File Photo

Joe Biden has pledged not to fire any inspectors-general if he becomes president, after President Donald Trump ousted four agency watchdogs in recent months.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was asked about topics including 'Obamagate' - Mr Trump's allegation that Obama administration officials were spying on his campaign - and hydroxychloroquine, the drug Mr Trump thinks will ward off the coronavirus.

Mr Trump's latest ousting, of Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general, angered Democrats, who are calling for a new system of congressional review before a president can fire an inspector general.

Mr Biden said he supported those efforts to restrict the executive branch's ability to unilaterally remove inspectors-general.

"Inspector-generals were designed to make government honest. To keep it honest," he said. "It's a gigantic government. We have a thousand employees. It's part of a troubling pattern since this whole Covid crisis began."

Mr Trump began his inspectors-general purge by firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community watchdog who passed to Congress the whistleblower complaint which led to Mr Trump's impeachment. He then demoted acting inspector-general of the Department of Defence Glenn Fine, who had just been tapped to oversee a committee following the approval of $2trn in pandemic- related stimulus funds.

Earlier this month, he replaced Department of Health and Human Services watchdog Christi Grimm, who had released a report warning of shortages at hospitals as the US faced a global pandemic.

Mr Biden also scoffed at Mr Trump's efforts to elevate a non-specific scandal which Mr Trump alleges involves Obama-era officials spying on him and his advisers during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"This is his pattern. Diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion. Don't speak to whatever the issues before us are. My God, Obamagate," Mr Biden said.

He also slammed Mr Trump's son, Donald Trump Jnr, for sharing a tweet accusing the former vice-president of being a "paedophile", calling it "sick".

"But he is his father's son," Mr Biden said. "Say it enough, like his father says, if you say it enough, people will believe it."

He was critical of Mr Trump's response to the coronavirus, accusing him of acting too late. He referenced the daily briefings Mr Trump received long before the first cases in the US, warning of the threat.

"He either didn't read them, or he ignored them. Either is a dereliction of his duty," Mr Biden said. "The intelligence community didn't fail. They told him. That's all they can do. They didn't fail. The president failed."

When asked about Mr Trump's decision to take the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus preventative despite there being little medical evidence that it protects against the virus, Mr Biden said: "Come on, man! What is he doing? What in God's name is he doing?" (© Washington Post)

Irish Independent