Pelosi hammers Pompeo, Trump: 'Scandalous' to dismiss IGs

Pelosi hammers Pompeo, Trump: 'Scandalous' to dismiss IGs
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Trump says he's considering executive action to suspend evictions, payroll tax Trump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday bashed Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing Democrats subpoena top aides to Pompeo MORE for his role in the recent dismissal of his agency's top watchdog, calling the episode "scandalous" and urging Pompeo to provide a justification before Congress.

"Let's see how this unfolds," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "But what it is that we know so far is scandalous."

Pelosi said President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE's decision to remove State Department Inspector General Steve Linick within 30 days, a move recommended by Pompeo, is part of broader pattern of recent IG dismissals, which risk allowing top administration officials to flout guidelines — and even break laws — with impunity.

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"Inspector generals play an important part of the integrity of our country," Pelosi said. "It was passed after Watergate to make sure that there was a truth-finder in terms of waste, fraud and abuse and any other violations of the law in agencies of government. That has been respected until now. And what this president is doing is by undermining truth ... undermining democracy.

"This is scandalous."

Trump announced the sacking of Linick on Friday night. A veteran of the Bush and Obama administrations, Linick was reportedly investigating Pompeo for using an agency employee to run personal errands on behalf of him and his wife — a charge that had contributed to the ouster of Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA looks to other statutes to expand scope of coming 'secret science' rule EPA ordered to reconsider New York efforts to tame downwind pollution OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic MORE, the former head of Trump's Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018.

Linick was also said to be examining a multibillion-dollar arms deal between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia — a sale challenged by bipartisan lawmakers in both chambers.

Pelosi suggested the administration had concocted "a fake emergency" surrounding the arms sale in order to finalize the deal over the objections of Congress.

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"Not only did they do something wrong in declaring an emergency that was a fake emergency, but they undermined the will of Congress," Pelosi said.

She also hammered Pompeo for reportedly refusing to be interviewed by Linick during the course of the Saudi probe.

"[That] is standard fare when an IG is looking into something, that the person being investigated or in charge of the whole operation would be subject to that questioning, friendly or otherwise," Pelosi said. "He didn't do that. So I think it's a reflection of the complete disregard for the truth in the Trump administration."

Pelosi's comments came moments after a defiant Pompeo, addressing reporters at his own press conference, defended his recommendation to remove Linick, emphasizing that every president has the power to appoint IGs of his or her choosing.

"They're presidentially confirmed positions, and those persons, just like all of us, serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States," Pompeo said. "In this case, I recommended it to the president that Steve Linick be terminated. Frankly should have done it some time ago."

Trump ran his 2016 campaign on a promise to "drain the swamp." Yet he's also been highly distrustful of certain watchdogs within his own administration, leading to a string of recent firings targeting the same figures charged with weeding out executive waste, corruption and abuse. Linick's removal is the fourth such dismissal since early April, when Trump announced the removal of Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community.

Pelosi on Monday had demanded that Trump provide a justification for Linick's dismissal, as required by law.

On Wednesday, she went a step further, saying Pompeo should testify before Congress for the same reason. But she's not holding her breath for his appearance.

"It's very hard to get the administration to honor its responsibilities to the American people by testifying before Congress," Pelosi said.