May 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Grassley calls on Trump to explain removal of State Department watchdog

Chuck Grassley.
Sen. Chuck Grassley. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to President Trump on Monday requesting an explanation for his move to fire State Department inspector general Steve Linick, who is the fourth federal watchdog that Trump has sought to remove in the last six weeks.

The big picture: Grassley, who says he has long considered himself a "strong supporter" of the IG community during his time in Congress, wrote that firing independent watchdogs "could create a chilling effect in the oversight community." He said that Trump's explanation that he "lost confidence" in Linick is not sufficient without further details.

  • A group of bipartisan senators led by Grassley wrote a similar letter to Trump after he fired Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, in April. They have yet to hear back, Grassley said in his latest letter.

What he's saying: "Removal of IGs without explanation could create a chilling effect in the oversight community, and risks decreasing the quantity, quality, fidelity, and veracity of their reports," Grassley wrote.

  • "As mentioned in previous letters, Congress’s intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the IG Reform Act. This is in large part because Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of unfitness, wrongdoing, or failure to perform the duties of the office."
  • "I want to work with you to ensure that the enemy here is wasteful government spending, not the government watchdogs charged with protecting the taxpayer."

Worth noting: Democrats led by House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) have already launched an investigation into the removal of Linick, who was probing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's alleged misuse of agency staff for personal errands. Engel said Monday that Linick was also investigating the administration's effort to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia without approval from Congress.

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