Ousted State Dept. watchdog was probing Trump's Saudi arms sales

The State Department inspector general was investigating the administration’s use of an emergency declaration to sell billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and other allies when he was fired last week, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a statement on Monday.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE late Friday evening announced his intention to dismiss Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general (IG) since 2013, and drew swift rebuke from Democrats who accused the administration of political retaliation, saying the IG was investigating Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoMurkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump Pepper spray fired during Tiananmen Square memorial in Hong Kong The Hill's 12:30 Report: NYT publishes controversial Tom Cotton op-ed MORE's possible misuse of taxpayer funds.

Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelEngel primary challenger hits million in donations Engel says he refuses to seek NYT endorsement over Cotton op-ed The Hill's Campaign Report: Republicans go on the hunt for new convention site MORE (D-N.Y.) said Monday the IG's firing may also be tied to an investigation into the administration's Saudi arms sale.

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“I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick’s firing. His office was investigating — at my request — Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia,” Engel wrote in a statement obtained by The Hill.

“We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed," Engel added.

Trump in May of last year issued an emergency declaration that bypassed congressional authorization to sell up to $8 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, with Pompeo saying at the time the move was necessary to "deter Iranian aggression."

Congress had delayed approving the arms sales because it was occurring after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

A Democratic aide confirmed to the Hill that the investigation into the Saudi arms sales was tied to Mr. Linick’s removal.

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Engel, along with Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGovernment watchdog: 'No evidence' Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips No time to be selling arms to the Philippines Senate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation MORE (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have launched an investigation into the circumstances of Linick’s dismissal.

“The administration should comply with the probe I launched with Senator Menendez and turn over all the records requested from the Department by Friday,” Engel said in the statement to The Hill.

White House officials told The New York Times that Pompeo had recommended that Trump remove the IG. The State Department didn't respond to a request for comment on reasons behind the IG's firing or if it was done at the insistence of the secretary.

--This report was updated at 2:05 p.m.