Ron Johnson says he’s not ‘crying big crocodile tears’ over firing of State Department IG

Bonnie Cash

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Sunday that he’s not “crying big crocodile tears” over the Trump administration’s firing of a State Department inspector general.

“I spoke with senior officials in the White House and State Department to understand their reasoning, I don’t know whether they are going to provide any more robust rationale for why they did it, but I understand. I don’t disagree with it,” Johnson said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” 

“I don’t think anything this administration is going to say is going to satisfy some people,” he added. 

State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was ousted Friday evening.

On Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out Linick was the fourth inspector general ousted by the Trump administration in six weeks. 

“I find it hard to believe if President Obama had gotten rid of four inspectors general in six weeks that you would have the same attitude you seem to have right now,” Tapper said Jonson. 

“Two of those inspector generals under President Obama resigned under the scrutiny of my oversight,” Jonson responded. “I’m not going to speak specifically to this case, quite honestly, with this inspector general both Sen. [Chuck] Grassley (R-Iowa) and I had a real problem with his responsiveness to, in particular, one oversight request.” 

Tapper also asked what officials are telling Johnson that makes him feel like he understands the administration’s reasoning.

Johnson said wouldn’t discuss “private conversations” with senior officials, but he added that everything will “all come out,” as he anticipates that House Democrats will call Linick in to testify.

“And my guess, the administration will hopefully have an opportunity to tell their side of the story as well,” he said. “I’m not crying big crocodile tears over this termination. Let’s put it that way.”

Johnson also said he remains an advocate for inspectors generally, adding “we rely an awful lot on their work.” 

“I’m very mindful of the fact that inspectors general don’t work for Congress. They actually work for the administration and are part of the executive branch,” he said. 

Johnson said he takes a “slightly different view in terms of what they need to remain independent from.” He said inspectors general need to remain independent within their agencies to conduct inspections and investigations, but said they serve “at the pleasure of the president.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that it was “unsavory” of the president to “take out someone who is there to…stop waste, fraud, abuse or other violations of the law.”

Pelosi said President Trump in his Friday letter to congressional leaders announcing Linick’s firing did not give a clear reason for the ouster.

Pelosi added, however, that she trusts House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who said he learned the inspector general had opened an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I only got this letter from the president that night, but he didn’t say in his letter any reason except that he lost confidence. Well he’s lost confidence in another IG because they had been investigating or looking, have reason to believe that something should be investigated that he is doing,” Pelosi said.

–This report was updated at 12:56 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Eliot Engel Jake Tapper Mike Pompeo Nancy Pelosi Ron Johnson Steve Linick Sunday talk shows

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