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 TrumpBarr criticizes DOJ in speech declaring all agency power 'is invested in the attorney general' Military leaders asked about using heat ray on protesters outside White House: report Powell warns failure to reach COVID-19 deal could 'scar and damage' economy 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 PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep Trump's foreign policy successes confound his detractors It's time for a Jackson-Vanik Amendment for China MORE's possible misuse of taxpayer funds.

Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep Coons beats back progressive Senate primary challenger in Delaware Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' 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) MenendezKasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' Senators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report VOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage 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.