Watchdog who found hospital shortages unfazed by Trump barbs

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In this image from video, acting Health and Human Services acting inspector general Christi Grimm testifies during a remote hearing of the House Oversight Committee, Tuesday, May 26, 2020. (House Television via AP)

WASHINGTON – The author of a federal report that found U.S. hospitals faced severe shortages of coronavirus test supplies says she is not intimidated by criticism from President Donald Trump, even after he moved to replace her as chief watchdog of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Christi Grimm, who has served as acting inspector general since January, told a House panel that there was no “chilling effect” from Trump's criticism of her last month and his subsequent move to replace her.

“We are plowing ahead” with 14 new reports and audits on the health department's response to the virus, Grimm said during a videoconference briefing Tuesday with the House Oversight Committee.

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California asked Grimm if she believes there was a “chilling effect" from Trump's criticism: "If you say something or do something that is offensive to the president that you will be removed from office?”

Grimm said no, adding: “I personally and professionally cannot let the idea of providing unpopular information drive decision-making in the work that we do.''

Congress can be assured that 14 pending reports and audits of health spending related to the virus outbreak will continue unfettered "to protect people, to protect funds, to protect infrastructure and to ensure effectiveness,'' Grimm said. “We are operating as we did on May 1” when Trump nominated a new inspector general to replace Grimm.

Jason Weida, an assistant U.S. attorney in Boston, must be confirmed by the Senate before assuming the position. Grimm remains in charge of the office as principal deputy inspector general while Weida's nomination is pending.

With coronavirus cases skyrocketing, the inspector general’s office reported April 6 that a shortage of tests and long waits for results were at the root of mounting problems faced by hospitals.