Washington — In testimony before Congress on Tuesday, the former acting inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defended a report her office issued in the early weeks of the pandemic that detailed shortages of personal protective equipment in hospitals across the country, findings that drew criticism from President Trump and led him to seek her replacement weeks later.
Christi Grimm, who remains the principal deputy inspector general, appeared before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in a virtual briefing Tuesday to discuss the report, which was released on April 6. She defended the report’s conclusions and said the office of inspector general (OIG) is “impartial in what we do.”
“I do think that independence is the cornerstone of what any office of inspector general does,” Grimm said. “I personally and professionally cannot let the idea of providing unpopular information drive decision-making in the work that we do.”
Mr. Trump announced earlier this month that he would nominate a new HHS inspector general, effectively replacing Grimm, who has led the office of the inspector general since January. The president has removed or demoted several inspectors general from their posts in recent months. Grimm told the Oversight Committee that she did not feel as if Mr. Trump’s decisions had a chilling effect for inspectors general to be honest about their findings.
Grimm said her office had conducted a survey of hospitals between March 23 and 27 to get a “snapshot in time” of the response as the coronavirus crisis escalated. She said that the OIG had not independently verified the responses from hospitals surveyed but took them at their word.
“The report was a snapshot in time. It was the beginning of the work we are doing looking at the coronavirus response,” Grimm said, adding that she believed it was the “right report to do at the time, given where we were at.” Grimm also acknowledged that HHS has taken steps to address the issues raised in the report, which was released on April 6.
Mr. Trump criticized Grimm in early April, calling the findings in her report “wrong.”
“Did I hear the word inspector general? Really?” Mr. Trump said during a White House briefing, demanding that the reporter who asked the question give him the name of the inspector general who wrote the report. “Where did he come from, the inspector general? What’s his name? No, what’s his name? What’s his name?”
He also criticized Grimm and her report on Twitter, writing: “Why didn’t the I.G., who spent 8 years with the Obama Administration (Did she Report on the failed H1N1 Swine Flu debacle where 17,000 people died?), want to talk to the Admirals, Generals, V.P. & others in charge, before doing her report.”
Grimm is a career investigator who has served both Republican and Democratic presidents.