US Democrats probe ouster of watch­dog

Kuwait Times - - Internatio­nal -

WASH­ING­TON: Con­gres­sional Democrats have launched a probe into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s “po­lit­i­cally-mo­ti­vated” dis­missal of a gov­ern­ment watch­dog be­lieved to have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo. The an­nounce­ment came af­ter Trump told House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Fri­day that he planned to dis­miss State Depart­ment In­spec­tor Gen­eral Steve Linick. It was Trump’s third abrupt dis­missal of an of­fi­cial tasked with mon­i­tor­ing gov­ern­men­tal mis­con­duct and abuse since April, and drew crit­i­cism even from mem­bers of his own party.

“The fir­ings of mul­ti­ple In­spec­tors Gen­eral is un­prece­dented; do­ing so with­out good cause chills the in­de­pen­dence es­sen­tial to their pur­pose,” tweeted Repub­li­can Mitt Rom­ney. “It is a threat to ac­count­able democ­racy and a fis­sure in the con­sti­tu­tional bal­ance of power,” Rom­ney con­tin­ued. Two se­nior Democrats - Se­na­tor Bob Me­nen­dez and con­gress­man Eliot En­gel - said in a state­ment they “un­al­ter­ably op­pose the po­lit­i­cally-mo­ti­vated fir­ing”.

The law­mak­ers said Linick had ap­par­ently “opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into wrong­do­ing by Sec­re­tary Pom­peo him­self,” and said the fir­ing was “trans­par­ently de­signed to pro­tect Sec­re­tary Pom­peo from per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity ... and may be an il­le­gal act of re­tal­i­a­tion.” A Demo­cratic con­gres­sional aide, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, said Linick was prob­ing com­plaints that Pom­peo in­ap­pro­pri­ately used a po­lit­i­cal ap­pointee to per­form per­sonal tasks for him­self and his wife Su­san.

CNN, cit­ing a se­nior State Depart­ment of­fi­cial, re­ported that Pom­peo him­self had rec­om­mended the fir­ing and hand-picked Stephen Akard, a for­mer aide to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, to suc­ceed Linick. By law, the ad­min­is­tra­tion must give Congress 30 days’ no­tice of its plans to ter­mi­nate an in­spec­tor gen­eral, in the­ory giv­ing law­mak­ers time to study the move - and protest if war­ranted. “A gen­eral lack of con­fi­dence sim­ply is not suf­fi­cient de­tail to sat­isfy Congress,” warned Repub­li­can se­na­tor Chuck Grass­ley.

But pre­vi­ous such fir­ings have gone through unim­peded, and those dis­missed have been re­placed by po­lit­i­cal al­lies of the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent. En­gel, who heads the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, and Me­nen­dez, the top Demo­crat on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, re­quested that the White House and State Depart­ment turn over records re­lated to Linick’s dis­missal.They also asked to see files for IG in­ves­ti­ga­tions “in­volv­ing the Of­fice of the Sec­re­tary that were open, pend­ing, or in­com­plete at the time of Mr Linick’s fir­ing.”

Dog-sit­ting and take­out

Pom­peo has raised eye­brows for fre­quently trav­el­ing the world on his gov­ern­ment plane with his wife, who has no of­fi­cial role. CNN re­ported last year that a whistle­blower had com­plained that the Bureau of Diplo­matic Se­cu­rity, which guards US mis­sions over­seas as well as the sec­re­tary of state, had been as­signed ques­tion­able tasks for the Pom­peos, such as pick­ing up take­out food or tend­ing to the fam­ily dog. The State Depart­ment con­firmed Linick’s fir­ing but did not com­ment on the rea­son or on whether Pom­peo was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. A State Depart­ment spokesper­son also con­firmed that the new in­spec­tor gen­eral would be Akard, an at­tor­ney who served as a for­eign af­fairs ad­vi­sor to Pence when the lat­ter was gov­er­nor of In­di­ana. — AFP

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