President Donald Trump on Monday defended his right to fire the State Department inspector general who was probing Mike Pompeo and defended the secretary of state having government employees walk his dog or even wash dishes.
Trump provided the defense of Pompeo even as it was revealed the IG who Pompeo sought to have removed was investigating him for the alleged misuse of government employees for personal errands – a matter Pompeo himself would not comment on Monday.
‘He’s a high quality person, Mike. He’s a very brilliant guy,’ Trump said at the White House. ‘And now I have you telling me about dog walking, washing dishes and you know what, I’d rather have him on the phone with some world leader than have him wash dishes because maybe his wife isn’t there or his kids aren’t – you know.’ Trump said.
‘What are you telling me it’s terrible. It’s so stupid. You know how stupid that sounds to the world? Unbelievable,’ Trump said.
‘I’d rather have him on the phone with some world leader than have him wash dishes because maybe his wife isn’t there or his kids aren’t – you know,’ President Trump said, defending Mike Pompeo from allegations he had government employees do chores for him
Trump said it was Pompeo’s idea to axe the IG, career government official Steve Linick. ‘He asked me if that would be possible. I said I’ll do that, sure,’ Trump said.
Trump repeatedly defended Pompeo on the dog walking charge, ridiculing the idea that it would become a major story in the media.
‘You mean he’s under investigation because he had somebody walk his dog from the government? I don’t know,’ Trump said. ‘I don’t think it sounds like that important.’
‘You have a man that’s supposed to be – and he’s a brilliant guy He was Number One at West Point. Number One at Harvard, I believe, Harvard Law school – or close. Number One at Harvard Law School, or very close to number one,’ Trump said, although Harvard does not have class rankings like West Point does.
‘And they’re bothered because he’s having somebody walk his dog as you’re telling me? I didn’t know that. I didn’t hear that. I didn’t know about an investigation. But this is what you get with the Democrats,’ the president continued.
‘Here’s a man supposed to be negotiating war and peace with major countries,’ Trump said.
‘And maybe he’s busy, and maybe he’s negotiating with [North Korean dictator] Kim Jong un, okay, about nuclear weapons. So he says please can you walk my dog. You mind walking my dog – I’m talking to Kim Jong un?’ Trump said.
‘Please walk my dog, to who, a Secret Service person or somebody. I don’t know,’ Trump said.
‘And they’re bothered because he’s having somebody walk his dog as you’re telling me?’ Trump said when a reporter asked him about it.
‘I didn’t know that. I didn’t hear that. I didn’t know about an investigation. But this is what you get with the Democrats,’ he said.
Trump said he encouraged top aides to fire Obama appointees – even though inspectors general are career employees who generally are former prosecutors or other investigators who root out corruption within their own agencies.
‘I did suggest in pretty much all cases you get rid of the attorney generals because it happens to be very political whether you like it or not and many of these people were Obama appointments and so I just got rid of him,’ Trump said – momentarily mixing up ‘attorney general’ and ‘inspector general.’
‘I was happy to do it. Mike requested that I do it,’ Trump said.
‘He should have done it a long time ago, in my opinion.’ Trump repeatedly put distance between himself and the IG, although he signed a letter delivered to the House speaker Friday firing him.
‘I don’t know him. Never heard of him,’ Trump said.
Pompeo said Monday the agency’s independent inspector general who was abruptly fired Friday night was ‘trying to undermine what it was that we were trying to do’ – in a statement acknowledging there was a substantive reason behind the act.
Amid new blowback for the swift action – including a link to a probe of Pompeo’s alleged use of government staff to do personal errands – the nation’s top diplomat told the Washington Post fired IG Steve Linick ‘wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him.’
President Trump on Friday provided only a vague reason for the extraordinary firing – saying he didn’t have the ‘fullest confidence’ Linick, who was confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote and appointed by President Barack Obama.
Pompeo’s claims that the IG was fired for cause came after new information that Linick was investigating a controversial multi-billion U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said Monday the State Department IG fired by President Trump late Friday had been investigating administration arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday State Department IG Steve Linick was fired because he was ‘trying to undermine what it was that we were trying to do’
Rep. Eliot Engel’s statement connects the sudden termination of the independent auditor to a controversial $8 billion sale of high-tech military hardware that Trump approved despite fierce opposition in Congress.
His claim came after Democrats revealed Linick had probed allegations Pompeo had a politically-appointed staffer walk his dog and perform other errands.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s firing of the State Department’s top internal watchdog ‘could be unlawful,’ and Democratic committees have launched a probe.
‘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,’ House Foreign Affairs chairman Rep. Eliot Engel told the Washington Post.
‘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 continued. The paper reported that the State Department had recently been briefed on the IG’s findings – which could provide a circumstantial connection to the sudden firing – amid an apparent purge of four inspectors general officials.
Trump announced Linick’s removal in a letter to Pelosi late on Friday night, making him the latest government inspector general that the Republican president has ousted over the last several weeks.
Trump wrote Pelosi that he ‘no longer’ has ‘the fullest confidence’ in Linick.
Engel and Senator Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Republican-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced on Saturday they were launching an investigation.
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on February 12, 2019, shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approaching to kiss the Hajar al-Aswad (‘Black Stone’), believed to be the only piece remaining from an altar built by the patriarch Abraham, as he visits Islam’s holiest shrine of the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca, during his inspections of expansion at the site. The Trump administraiton approved $8 billion in arms sales to Saudis despite congressional opposition
Trump infuriated many members of Congress last year, including some of his fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, by declaring an emergency in order to sidestep Congressional review of $8 billion in military sales, mostly to Saudi Arabia.
The powerful weapons included F-15 fighter aircraft and potent javelin missiles. The president was able to circumvent congressional opposition by invoking an ’emergency’ pegged to attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq by Iranian proxies.
The IG fired by Trump was also said to have been investigating claims Mike Pompeo made a staffer walk his dog and pick up his dry cleaning.
Donald Trump announced the planned removal of Inspector General Steve Linick in a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Friday night. That made him the fourth government inspector general to be ousted in recent weeks.
Two officials have now told NBC Linick was looking into whether Secretary of State Pompeo made the staffer carry out personal tasks, including booking dinner reservations for the Republican and his wife and walking Sherman, their pet dog.
Democrats demanded on Saturday that the White House hand over all records related to Trump’s latest firing of a federal watchdog, suggesting Pompeo was responsible, in what ‘may be an illegal act of retaliation’.
One White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: ‘Secretary Pompeo recommended the move and President Trump agreed.’
Trump’s adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday downplayed the firing of the State Department’s top internal watchdog, saying the ‘deep state’ has caused problems for the administration and those who are not loyal must go.
The top Democrats on the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees questioned the timing and motivation of what they called an ‘unprecedented removal.’
The ousted State Department inspector general was said to have been investigating claims Mike Pompeo, pictured, made a staffer walk his dog Sherman and pick up his dry cleaning
Trump announced late Friday that he was firing the inspector general, Steve Linick, pictured, an Obama administration appointee whose office was critical of what it saw as political bias in the State Department’s management
In a letter to Congress, Trump, pictured Sunday, said Linick, who had held the job since 2013, no longer had his full confidence and that his removal would take effect in 30 days. Trump did not mention Linick by name in his letter
‘We unalterably oppose the politically-motivated firing of inspectors general and the President’s gutting of these critical positions,’ House panel chairman Eliot Engel and Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations panel, said in a statement announcing the probe.
The two Democrats said it was their understanding that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo personally recommended Linick’s firing because the inspector general ‘had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Secretary Pompeo himself.’
A State Department spokesperson confirmed Linick had been fired but did not comment on the Democratic investigation or Pompeo’s role in the dismissal.
The agency said Stephen Akard, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, would take over the watchdog job.
Linick, who was appointed to the role in 2013 under the Obama administration, is the fourth inspector general fired by Trump since early April following the president’s February acquittal by the Republican-led Senate in an impeachment trial.
Pelosi called the ousting an acceleration of a ‘dangerous pattern of retaliation.’
Two officials have now told NBC Linick was looking into whether Secretary of State Pompeo made the staffer carry out personal tasks, including booking dinner reservations for the Republican and his wife Susan, pictured in September 2019
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan Pompeo, pictured in February
Dems investigate Trump’s dismissal of State Department IG
Two top Democrats launched an investigation Saturday into a claim that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for the dismissal of a State Department Inspector General who had opened a probe into his conduct.
Rep. Eliot L. Engel and Sen. Robert Menendez have told the Trump administration to preserve all records related to the Friday-night dismissal of Steve Linick in an open letter announcing the investigation.
‘Reports indicated that Secretary Pompeo personally made the recommendation to fire Mr. Linick, and it is our understanding that he did so because the Inspector General had opened an investigation into the wrongdoing by Secretary Pompeo himself,’ the letter said.
‘Such an action, transparently designed to protect Secretary Pompeo from personal accountability, would undermine the foundation of our democratic institutions and may be an illegal act of retaliation.’
In April, Trump removed a top coronavirus watchdog, Glenn Fine, who was to oversee the government’s COVID-19 financial relief response.
Trump also notified Congress that he was firing the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, who was involved in triggering the impeachment investigation.
Earlier in May, Trump ousted Christi Grimm, who led the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, after accusing her of having produced a ‘fake dossier’ on American hospitals suffering shortages on the frontlines of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
‘Trump is methodically eliminating anyone who would bring wrongdoing to light,’ Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel, tweeted.
Engel and Menendez called on the Trump administration to turn over any related documents by May 22.
Trump and his administration have repeatedly balked at Congress’ power to check the executive branch, refusing to turn over records in multiple probes and triggering lawsuits over its oversight power. It was not immediately clear what, if any, other action lawmakers would take outside the probe.
Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, who exited after clashing with Trump, said the 30-day notice gave lawmakers a window to act, if they wanted to, including calling Pompeo to testify.
‘It is part of a purge to remove legitimate watchdogs and replace them with loyalists,’ he tweeted.
Representatives for Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s letter provided 30-days’ notice as required and said he no longer had confidence in Linick’s ability to serve as inspector general, but gave no specific reasons.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said in a statement that citing ‘a general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress.’
Top Trump adviser Peter Navarro suggests ousted State Dept inspector general was part of the ‘deep state’
President Donald Trump’s adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday downplayed the firing of the State Department’s top internal watchdog, saying the ‘deep state’ has caused problems for the administration and those who are not loyal must go.
Trump fired Inspector General Steve Linick, an Obama administration appointee, late on Friday but gave no reason for the move.
Linick is the fourth inspector general to be fired by Trump in the past two months, following his acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate in his impeachment trial.
Navarro, the Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, reacted to the ouster during an interview with ABC’s This Week on Sunday morning.
‘We’ve had tremendous problems with, some people call it the ‘Deep State’. And I think that’s apt. So I don’t mourn the loss,’ Navarro said.
‘There’s a bureaucracy out there. And there’s a lot of people in that bureaucracy who think they got elected president and not Donald J Trump.’
Trade adviser Peter Navarro suggested that ousted State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was a member of the ‘deep state’ during an ABC News interview on Sunday morning
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that Trump’s firing of the State Department’s top internal watchdog ‘could be unlawful’ if it was intended to retaliate against one of his investigations.
‘The president has the right to fire any federal employee, but the fact is if it looks like it’s in retaliation for something the IG, the inspector general, was investigating, that could be unlawful,’ Pelosi said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’
Navarro’s comments are only likely to further inflame tensions with Democrats, who on Saturday launched an investigation into Trump’s late-night ouster of Linick, the latest in an escalating pattern by Trump of firing watchdogs whom he views as a threat to his presidency.