Pandemic assist watchdog steps into partisan warfare over bailouts – Reuters

(Reuters) – Brian Miller would recognize one of the most hardest jobs in Washington even without the cutthroat politics all spherical him. As The United States’s inspector licensed for pandemic reduction, he’s charged with rooting out fraud within the spending of trillions of greenbacks in emergency assist.

FILE PHOTO: White House attorney Brian Miller, nominated by U.S. President Donald Trump to be the Treasury Department’s Inspector Total for Pandemic Restoration, is sworn in all the highest map by a U.S. Senate Banking Committee affirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Might honest 5, 2020. Alex Wong/Pool through REUTERS

But sooner than even beginning work, he used to be blasted by Democratic lawmakers who screech he’ll be more of a lapdog than watchdog, citing his newest ancient past as a attorney in Donald Trump’s White House. And Trump himself – who in newest months has ousted a raft of inspectors licensed, prosecutors and assorted officers – signaled that he’ll preserve Miller on a tight leash, forbidding him from reporting to Congress without “presidential supervision.”

How Miller, a Trump appointee, handles such pressures will check the administration’s willingness – or lack of it – to ask accountability in pandemic reduction spending. Miller’s response also would maybe maybe maybe originate or break the recognition the old prosecutor and inspector licensed has built over a protracted time.

Reuters interviewed more than two dozen folk that know Miller or recognize insight into the job confronting him to treasure how he would maybe maybe take care of it. Supporters from all the highest map by the political spectrum put a query to Miller to investigate aggressively and impartially. They screech he has prosecuted excessive-profile conditions and weathered political controversy as an inspector licensed – including an uproar over an investigation he led that compelled the resignation of the Republican chief of the Total Services and products Administration (GSA).

However the fresh put up – Particular Inspector Total for Pandemic Restoration – poses some distance elevated logistical and political hurdles for the sixty 4-year-typical attorney, a Presbyterian elder who married his highschool sweetheart and lives in a modest ranch dwelling in Fredericksburg, Va.

Miller declined to comment for this memoir. He acknowledged that the pickle can be “very tense and tense” all the highest map by his Congressional vetting on Might honest 5.

Gordon Heddell, who has served inspector-licensed stints at the Labor and Protection departments, known as Miller’s work “prominent” in his job at the GSA. Gentle, Heddell stated, any inspector licensed below Trump has to place a query to “a day of reckoning.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews declined to touch upon considerations that Miller’s independence can be compromised by his newest White House work and Trump’s file of firing inspector generals.

Miller’s appointment, launched in April, places him at the guts of a roiling battle over transparency in pandemic spending. The administration first and main fought to preserve secret the names and mortgage portions of recipients in a $660 billion program offering forgivable loans to companies. The Treasury Department has since agreed to converse recordsdata for awards over $150,000 – a threshold Democratic critics screech will mute veil most funds. The administration has stated this would maybe maybe balance transparency considerations with protecting what it calls confidential industry recordsdata.

The White House also took warmth from lawmakers for issuing steering they stated permits federal companies to push apart legislative mandates to earn and file tiny print on how assist recipients spend the cash to construct jobs. The laws requires reporting that recordsdata to the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee – of which Miller is a member. [nL1N2DV1ZA]

Miller’s remit focuses directly on a $500 billion fragment of the assist equipment administered by the Treasury Department, such as airline bailouts and funding for Federal Reserve emergency lending. However the laws opens the door for him to oversee assorted bailouts, including the industry mortgage program.

Skeptics of Miller mostly cite his most newest job, as a senior partner White House counsel beginning in December 2018. Whereas he basically saved a low profile, Miller angered Democrats with a letter denying a Congressional watchdog company’s recordsdata quiz related to the Ukraine impeachment inquiry.

“Trump is making appointments essentially essentially based totally on loyalty,” stated Virginia Canter, ethics counsel at the Electorate for Accountability and Ethics in Washington and a feeble White House attorney below two Democratic presidents. “So you could ask your self: Are you able to commit your self to representing the public pastime when your past job used to be being the president’s attorney?”

Democratic lawmakers were more blunt. Trump “put a fox accountable of the henhouse,” stated Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal in a commentary.


Passe colleagues report Miller as a well-known and unpretentious old attorney. Sooner than coming into the laws, Miller had planned a occupation within the church. He earned a bachelor’s diploma from Temple College in Philadelphia, and twin grasp’s levels from discontinuance by Westminster Theological Seminary. When he didn’t directly uncover a pickle, he went to laws school at the College of Texas, graduating in 1983.

Miller is active at the tiny Presbyterian church within the Washington suburbs, where his son is the pastor. His minister at a earlier church, Bob Becker, calls Miller humble and grounded, with a “heart of provider.”

After about a years in non-public observe, Miller in 1987 joined the Washington-essentially essentially based mostly U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and in 1990 moved to the Justice Department, where we worked for 15 years. Some of his most good-known work got here as a prosecutor within the Jap District of Virginia, a excessive-profile outpost dubbed the “rocket docket” for its posthaste-transferring conditions.

All over that point, Ed Gibson used to be a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent investigating cash-laundering conditions. He remembers Miller pulling him apart when he wished a more severe punishment for a white-collar conviction. Miller requested Gibson one thing that sticks with him right this moment time: “Ed, is that truly what you resolve on? Isn’t it justice you would possibly maybe maybe very well be seeking?”

Miller embraced delicate conditions, including the delicate prosecution of a health care provider accused of overprescribing opioids – known as “Dr. Feelgood” – and that of Zacarias Moussaoui, who helped realizing the eleventh of September, 2001 assaults.

“He used to be lawful substantial,” stated Gene Rossi, a fellow prosecutor at the time who credit score Miller’s aloof diplomacy with saving the opioid case.


Passe colleagues screech Miller didn’t hesitate to preserve on the Republican leadership of the GSA, a sprawling company coordinating billions in spending.

All over nine years there as inspector licensed, beginning in 2005, Miller used to be an aggressive watchdog – so great so as that the company’s chief, Lurita Doan, as soon as urged he and his crew had been practicing a obtain of terrorism, essentially essentially based totally on a Washington Put up file at the time.

Doan froze hiring in Miller’s office and tried to prick its spending. GSA crew filed complaints against Miller, and Congress members known as on President George W. Bush to hearth him, essentially essentially based totally on Congressional hearings and reviews.

Undeterred, Miller revealed that Doan had recommended a GSA contract to a chum, among assorted interventions. Congress excoriated Doan, who resigned below rigidity in 2008. Doan denied wrongdoing at the time; she did no longer respond to a quiz for comment.

“What finally got here out vindicated Brian,” stated Ted Stehney, the feeble head of audits in Miller’s GSA office.

Miller later drove an investigation into a lavish GSA crew tournament strategy Las Vegas that resulted within the resignation of the company’s fresh chief, Martha Johnson, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

Ex-GSA chief Johnson – who used to be circuitously thinking about planning the convention and supported Miller’s investigation – known as him a diligent auditor but stated his passions can be tiny-minded. Whereas he unearthed the convention spending abuses, Johnson stated, “It used to be devour ‘truly’?’ GSA is within the thick of all-of-govt spending – federal, disclose, native, tribal, warfare theater – and here is what he used to be fussing with?”

Miller is as parsimonious in his non-public existence as he expects others to be in govt. Stehney, the feeble GSA colleague, stated Miller has continually wished a Cadillac but never bought one.

“He cherished to hotfoot in mine, but he mute drove his Honda hybrid,” he stated.


Some mates had been deal surprised when Miller departed from his standard nonpartisan practices by taking a White House job.

Miller told a chum he wished to win encourage to public-sector work after a stint in non-public observe, defending clients from govt investigations. Miller told the coolest friend that he “felt a duty to encourage” when approached referring to the White House job.

The few tiny print that recognize emerged from Miller’s White House work recognize fueled considerations over his independence.

Democrats known as Miller’s denial of a Authorities Accountability Administrative heart (GAO) quiz referring to the impeachment inquiry negative. Miller downplayed the letter within the Might honest Congressional hearing as “answering the mail,” announcing he merely referred the matter to the White House Administrative heart of Administration and Funds, which had previously spoke back, offering some recordsdata but denying assorted requests.

FILE PHOTO: GSA Inspector Total Brian Miller testifies all the highest map by a hearing by the Senate Appropriations Monetary Services and products and Total Authorities Subcommittee on “Total Services and products Administration (GSA): A Overview of the Recent Inspector Total Administration Deficiency Represent and An Overview of the FY2013 GSA Funding Request of” on Capitol Hill in Washington April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

He also obtained an ethics waiver allowing him to proceed working with fresh GSA head Emily Murphy after taking his White House role. Whereas in non-public observe, Miller had told Murphy all the highest map by a GSA inspector-licensed probe into the cancellation of a relocation of the FBI’s Washington headquarters. The switch would maybe maybe maybe’ve injure earnings at Trump’s discontinuance by resort.

An excellent friend of Miller from Washington lawful circles, talking on situation of anonymity, stated he understood the raised eyebrows over Miller’s White House work.

“If I didn’t know Brian, I’m in a position to be suspicious given what Trump has performed with the IG community,” the coolest friend stated. “But he’s Brian. He’ll attain his job, and if it components he will get fired for it, he will get fired for it.”

Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne, Chris Prentice and Koh Gui Qing; Extra reporting by Pete Schroeder; Modifying by Tom Lasseter and Brian Thevenot