Trump names his pick for HHS inspector general after criticizing acting official over coronavirus report

Trump announced Friday that he will be nominating Jason C. Weida, an assistant US attorney in Boston, to be watchdog for one of the federal agencies most involved in the coronavirus response. If confirmed by the US Senate, Weida will fill the hole in leadership that’s being temporarily held by Christi Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general for HHS. The office has been without a permanent inspector general for nearly a year.

HHS Office of Inspector General spokeswoman Tesia Williams told CNN in a statement that the agency began “preparing transition materials to assist a new Inspector General appointee over a year ago, when the previous presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed Inspector General first announced his intention to retire from government service.”

“We will continue to work conscientiously to support a smooth leadership transition,” Williams said.

HHS referred CNN to the White House when reached for comment, and CNN has reached out for that additional comment.

Last month, Trump removed multiple inspectors general, who play crucial roles in weeding out fraud and abuse inside the government, as the nation’s attention was on fighting coronavirus. The President, CNN previously reported, has been fixated on ridding his administration of watchdogs he views as Obama loyalists.
Here are the government watchdog investigations into the federal coronavirus response
Grimm’s name appeared on a HHS OIG report last month that described a dire situation for front-line doctors and medical staff. The report found that the nation’s hospitals are dealing with “severe” and “widespread” shortages of needed testing supplies and personal protective equipment, hampering their ability to test and respond to the coronavirus pandemic adequately and protect medical staff.

The assessment was based on interviews with administrators from more than 300 hospitals across 46 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. The report was not a review of HHS’ response to the coronavirus crisis, but to help the agency in its efforts to support hospitals.

When asked about the report after its release, Trump dismissed it as “wrong” and attacked Grimm.

“Did I hear the word ‘inspector general’? Really? It’s wrong,” Trump said during an April 6 coronavirus task force briefing.

He also questioned whether politics tinged the findings and falsely described Grimm as an Obama appointee.

Grimm has served in HHS programs for over two decades in both Democratic and Republican administrations. She ascended to her current role in January, taking over for Joanne Chiedi, the department’s acting IG who retired at the end of last year.
Chiedi had replaced Dan Levinson, who resigned as inspector general in May 2019.

Weida has been an assistant US attorney in Boston since 2016 and had previously worked at the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy. According to the White House, Weida has “overseen numerous complex investigations in healthcare and other sectors.”

This story has been updated with comment from the HHS Office of Inspector General and to reflect HHS referred CNN to the White House for comment.

CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez, Kaitlan Collins, Maegan Vazquez and Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.

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