President Donald Trump has fired the State Department’s inspector general, an Obama administration appointee whose office was critical of the agency’s management under the Trump administration.
A senior department official said Trump removed Steve Linick from his job on Friday but gave no reason for his ouster. 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. Trump did not mention Linick by name in his letter.
Democrats in Congress immediately cried foul, with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee suggesting that Linick was fired in part in retaliation for opening an unspecified investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“This firing is the outrageous act of a president trying to protect one of his most loyal supporters, the secretary of state, from accountability,” Rep. Eliot Engel of New York said in a statement. “I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo. Mr. Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation.”
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) May 16, 2020
Engel offered no details of the investigation, although 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.
“If Inspector General Linick was fired because he was conducting an investigation of conduct by Secretary Pompeo, the Senate cannot let this stand,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said. “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee must get to bottom of what happened here.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also condemned Linick’s ouster, saying he had been “punished for honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security.”
The late-night, weekend firing of State Department IG Steve Linick is an acceleration of the President’s dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people. https://t.co/VavmuJpX25
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) May 16, 2020
“The president 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.”
Linick’s office also took issue with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as America’s top diplomat.
Linick will replaced by Stephen Akard, a former career foreign service officer who has close ties to Vice President Mike Pence, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Akard currently runs the department’s Office of Foreign Missions. He had been nominated to be the director general of the foreign service but withdrew after objections he wasn’t experienced enough.
Linick, a former assistant U.S. attorney in California and Virginia, had overseen inspector general reports that were highly critical of the department’s management policies during the Trump administration.
His office had criticized several Trump appointees for their treatment of career staff who had allegedly been insufficiently supportive of Trump and his policies.
Under Linick, the State Department’s inspector general office was also critical of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s hiring freeze and attempts to streamline the agency by slashing its funding and personnel.
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