Trump fires inspector general of State Department
WASHINGTON — Democrats demanded Saturday that the White House hand over all records related to President Trump’s latest firing of a federal watchdog, this time at the State Department, and they suggested Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was responsible in what “may be an illegal act of retaliation.”
“We unalterably oppose the politicallymotivated firing of inspectors general and the President’s gutting of these critical positions,” the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote in a letter to the administration announcing their investigation.
Trump announced late Friday that he was firing the inspector general, Steve Linick, an Obama administration appointee whose office was critical of what it saw as political bias in the State Department’s management. The ouster was one more move by the president against independent executive branch watchdogs who have found fault with his administration.
New York Rep. Eliot Engel and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez sent letters to the White House, the State Department and the inspector general’s office asking that administration officials preserve all records related to Linick’s dismissal and provide them to the committees by this Friday.
In a letter to Congress, Trump 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.
Democrats soon cried foul. Engel suggested Linick was fired in part in retaliation for opening an unspecified investigation into Pompeo. Two congressional aides said it involved allegations that Pompeo may have improperly treated staff. Linick’s office has issued several reports critical of the department’s handling of personnel matters during the Trump administration, including accusing some political appointees of retaliating against career officials.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, DSan Francisco, said Linick was “punished for honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security.”
She said Trump ”must cease his pattern of reprisal and retaliation against the public servants who are working to keep Americans safe, particularly during this time of global emergency.”
Trump has been taking aim lately at inspectors general. In April, he fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, for his role in the whistle blower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment.
Then Trump removed Glenn Fine as acting inspector general at the Defense Department. The move stripped him of his post as chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which is among those overseeing the vast economic relief law pass in response to the coronavirus.
Inspector General Steve Linick had overseen reports that were highly critical of the State Department’s management policies.