Pompeo says he asked Trump to fire watchdog for 'undermining' State

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report To support Hong Kong's freedom, remember America's revolution Senate passes sanctions bill targeting China over Hong Kong law MORE in a Monday interview with The Washington Post said he did not know a fired inspector general was investigating his own conduct, and said he'd recommended the firing because he believed the State Department inspector general was “undermining” the work of the agency

Pompeo told the Post he recommended Inspector General Steve Linick’s firing because he believed the independent watchdog was not acting in a way that the secretary felt made the State Department better.

“I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department, very consistent with what the statute says he’s supposed to be doing,” Pompeo said in a phone interview with the Post. “The kinds of activities he’s supposed to undertake to make us better, to improve us.”

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The remarks represent Pompeo's first public acknowledgement that he pressed President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE to fire Linick, but the secretary did not offer any examples or evidence supporting his criticisms against Linick. Trump announced the dismissal Friday evening.

It's the fourth watchdog dismissed by Trump in recent weeks, and it has drawn strong rebukes from Democrats and criticisms from some Republicans as well. 

Trump on Monday said he supported Pompeo’s recommendation in part because Linick had been appointed by former President Obama in 2013.

"I don’t know anything about him other than the State Department, and Mike in particular, I guess they weren’t happy with the job he’s doing or something. So because it’s my right to do it I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’ I’ve gotten rid of a lot of inspector generals. Every president has," Trump told reporters.

"A lot of our people kept the Obama inspector general, and I think generally speaking that’s not a good thing to do. I told them for three years, I said anybody wants to get rid of their IGs because they’re appointed by President Obama, I think you should do so,” he said.

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Senate and House Democrats charged with oversight of foreign affairs have launched an investigation into the circumstance surrounding Linick’s firing, raising concerns the inspector general had two separate investigations open that impacted the president and Pompeo.

One investigation Linick oversaw, and that Democrats have said was nearly completed, looked into whether Trump illegally issued an emergency declaration in May 2019 to move ahead on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia without congressional authorization.

A second investigation that Democrats are probing is whether Pompeo misused a political appointee at the State Department to run errands for both the secretary and his wife.

These errands included walking the family dog, picking up the secretary’s dry cleaning and making dinner reservations for Pompeo and his wife, NBC News reported.

Pompeo on Monday told the Post he was only aware of an investigation set to be released involving a national security manner and had no knowledge of a probe into his misuse of a staffer.

“It is not possible that this decision, or my recommendation rather, to the president rather, was based on any effort to retaliate for any investigation that was going on or is currently going on,” he told the Post. “Because I simply don’t know. I’m not briefed on it. I usually see these investigations in final draft form 24 hours, 48 hours before the IG is prepared to release them.

“So it’s simply not possible for this to be an act of retaliation. End of story.”