Following another ouster of a government watchdog by the president, Trump is being accused of possibly committing “an unlawful act of retaliation” by the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Late Friday, Trump informed Congress in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of his intent to fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. Ambassador Stephen Akard, who has ties with Vice President Mike Pence, will fill Linick’s position when it becomes vacant in 30 days.
According to Politico, the president said he “no longer” had the “fullest confidence” in Linick, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2013.
“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,” Engel wrote.
According to several reports, Linick had opened an investigation regarding Pompeo’s alleged use of a political appointee at the State Department who was directed to perform personal tasks for the secretary and his wife.
A senior state department official confirmed to CNN “that Pompeo made the recommendation that Linick be removed.”
Firing federal watchdogs and perceived enemies have become a hobby of sorts for Trump since his impeachment. Earlier this month, Christi Grimm, the top watchdog at the Department of Health and Human Services was also a Friday night casualty. Grimm’s office had recently released a report that, according to the New York Times, angered the president because it outlined hospital equipment shortages during the coronavirus pandemic.
And last month the president removed both the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson and the Acting Inspector General for the Defense Department Glenn Fine. Fine was overseeing how the trillions of taxpayer dollars in the coronavirus pandemic relief fund were being spent by the administration, and the New York Times described him as a “watchdog known for his independence.”
Engel’s statement went on to describe what he sees as a Trump’s continued lawlessness: “This President believes he is above the law. As he systematically removes the official independent watchdogs from the Executive Branch, the work of the Committee on Foreign Affairs becomes that much more critical. In the days ahead, I will be looking into this matter in greater detail, and I will press the State Department for answers.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also released a statement, calling Trump’s most recent action a part of a “dangerous pattern of retaliation against patriotic public servants.”
“The President’s late-night, weekend firing of the State Department Inspector General has accelerated his dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people. Inspector General Linick was punished for honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security, as required by the law and by his oath,” Pelosi wrote.
And Democratic Senator Chris Murphy called on the Senate to investigate, writing, “If Inspector General Linick was fired because he was conducting an investigation of conduct by Secretary Pompeo, the Senate cannot let this stand. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee must get to bottom of what happened here.”