Trump fires in­spec­tor gen­eral of State Depart­ment

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - NATION - By Matthew Lee Matthew Lee is an Associated Press writer.

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.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press 2019

In­spec­tor Gen­eral Steve Linick had over­seen re­ports that were highly crit­i­cal of the State Depart­ment’s man­age­ment poli­cies.

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