Updated May 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Top Democrats to investigate ouster of State Department watchdog

Steve Linick leaves the Capitol building in October 2019. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) announced an investigation Saturday into President Trump's Friday night ouster of State Department inspector general Steve Linick.

Why it matters: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recommended that Linick, who was reportedly investigating Pompeo for allegedly misusing agency staff for personal tasks, be removed from the position, a White House official told Axios. President Trump agreed.

What they're saying: “President Trump’s unprecedented removal of Inspector General Linick is only his latest sacking of an inspector general, our government’s key independent watchdogs, from a federal agency," Engel and Menendez wrote on Saturday. "We unalterably oppose the politically-motivated firing of inspectors general and the President’s gutting of these critical positions."

  • “Reports indicate 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 wrongdoing by Secretary Pompeo himself."
  • "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."

The big picture: Linick is one of three watchdogs to be fired on a Friday in the past six weeks. That includes the Pentagon's acting inspector general tasked with overseeing the execution of the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package, as well as the intelligence community inspector general whose handling of the whistleblower complaint helped lead to Trump's impeachment.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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