Pompeo recommended Trump remove State Dept. inspector general: reports
President Trump removed the inspector general tasked with overseeing the State Department after receiving a recommendation to oust him from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to multiple reports.
Trump informed congressional leaders on Friday that he was ousting State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was appointed to the role in 2013 by former President Obama, and replacing him with Ambassador Stephen Akard, a former career Foreign Service officer.
The move prompted outrage from top Democratic lawmakers, who just one day later announced an investigation into the decision. Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that they suspected the firing was linked to Linick’s review of Pompeo’s conduct.
“Reports indicate that Secretary Pompeo personally made the recommendation to fire Mr. Linick, and it is our understanding that he did so because the inspector general had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Secretary Pompeo himself,” the lawmakers said.
After the announcement of the probe, an anonymous White House official told NBC News and Reuters that Pompeo “recommended” Linick’s firing and that President Trump agreed.
The White House and the State Department did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.
In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) late Friday night, Trump said that he was removing Linick because he “no longer” had the “fullest confidence” in the official.
The executive branch is required by law to inform Congress 30 days ahead of time if it fires an inspector general.
Pelosi called the move part of a “dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people.” Linick’s removal came just months after Trump removed Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, the official who handled a whistleblower complaint that helped lead to the president’s impeachment.
Trump also in early April removed Acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, who had been charged with overseeing the management of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.
A Democratic aide told NPR on Saturday that Linick was reviewing whether Pompeo misused a political appointee at the State Department to perform personal tasks for him and his wife.
Menendez and Engel argued that the firing was “politically motivated” and demanded that the White House, State Department and Office of the Inspector General preserve all records related to Linick’s ouster. They asked that the documents be handed over to their committees within a week.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chair of the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, said Saturday that Congress deserved a more thorough explanation about the reasoning behind the move.
“Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG’s removal. A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress,” he said.
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