The ousted State Department inspector general was 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 latest 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.
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 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
‘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
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
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.