Grassley demands Trump explain firing of State Department inspector general
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the most senior Republican in the Senate, is pressing President Trump to explain why he fired the State Department inspector general, noting that Trump’s notice on Friday that he would remove Steve Linick after 30 days did not include an explanation as required by law.
Grassley in a letter to Trump Monday warned inspectors general “should be free from partisan political interference, from either the Executive or Legislative branch.”
He is asking Trump to “provide a detailed reasoning” for the removal of Linick no later than June 1.
Trump wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Friday night that he had fired Linick because he “no longer” had the “fullest confidence” in him.
But Grassley in his letter to Trump Monday noted that “lost confidence” is not sufficient to dismiss an inspector general under the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008.
“Congress’s intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the IG Reform Act. This is in large part because Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of unfitness, wrongdoing, or failure to perform the duties of the office,” Grassley wrote.
Grassley also warned against creating a conflict of interest by selecting political appointees from within an agency to serve as its acting inspector general.
“As you work toward filling IG roles, it is absolutely imperative that any acting leadership do not create obvious conflicts that unduly threaten the statutorily required independence of inspectors general,” Grassley wrote.
The State Department announced Friday Linick will be replaced as inspector general by Ambassador Stephen Akard, the director of the Office of Foreign Missions.
Grassley in his letter to Trump Monday also noted that the president has not responded to another letter sent April 8 asking for a “more detailed reasoning” as to why he removed Michael Atkinson as inspector general of the intelligence community.
Atkinson, who was fired in early April, later said he was terminated because he informed Congress of a whistleblower complaint against Trump that went on to serve as the basis of his impeachment in the House and trial in the Senate.
Grassley had given Trump an April 13 deadline to respond to his query about Atkinson..
The senator noted Monday that the Senate attached a report to the 2003 IG Reform Act clarifying that a “high bar” is expected to remove an inspector general.
The report stated that the law requires presidents to explain their reasons for removing a department watchdog “to ensure that inspectors general are not removed for political reasons.”