Report: State Dept. IG was investigating Pompeo before ouster
(CNN) - The State Department inspector general fired by President Donald Trump was reportedly investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for alleged misuse of government resources.
In just six weeks, there’s been a purge of one watchdog after the next: five inspectors general or officials acting in that role since the beginning of April. All but one were dismissed late on a Friday night, as the weekend began.
“Well, this is new to us and typical of the White House - announcing something that is very unsavory, they would do it late on a Friday night,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
The latest to draw the controversy is the Friday night firing of Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general.
He had launched an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and, according to two sources, whether Pompeo and his wife had used a politically appointed staffer for personal tasks, including dog walking, picking up dry cleaning and making dinner reservations.
Linick, who had previously issued two reports critical of the State Department, also played a small but key role in the impeachment inquiry.
Another likely strike against Linick was that he had been named by Barack Obama, many of whose appointees have been seen by the Trump Administration as insufficiently loyal and part of the so-called “deep state.”
White house economic advisor Peter Navarro said there’s no room for anyone not loyal to the Trump agenda.
“I support whatever this president does in terms of his hiring and firing decisions,” he said.
Also Friday night, the Transportation Department’s acting inspector general was replaced, and a new one nominated.
Inspectors general are vital to keeping agencies and departments in check, watching for wrongdoing and reporting it, oversight that has caused the president to bristle.
“Did I hear the word ‘inspector general?' Really? It’s wrong,” Trump said.
The former inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, had taken a whistleblower complaint about the president and Ukraine to Congress, angering the White House and leading to the impeachment proceedings. Atkinson was fired last month.
Just days before, the pentagon’s acting inspector general, Glenn Fine, who was overseeing spending on the coronavirus response, was also removed.
And two weeks ago, the official serving as the watchdog of Health and Human Services was replaced after investigators found shortages of testing kits and masks, along with delays in coronavirus test results.
“When you fire them with impunity, you are sending a chilling message to every inspector general of every department that, in fact, when you step on the administration’s toes, then you are fired. That cannot stand,” Sen. Robert Menendez said.
Leading House and Senate Democrats quickly announced an investigation of Linick’s firing, saying it may be “an illegal act of retaliation.”
Few republicans have spoken up. Sen. Mitt Romney called it “unprecedented” and “without good cause." Sen. Chuck Grassley said the president’s explanation is “simply is not sufficient.”
Trump wrote in a letter to Pelosi about the State Department firing: “It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general. That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”
Pelosi responded that the White House has yet to provide an explanation.
“The president has a right to fire any federal employee, but the fact is if it looks like it’s in retaliation for something the IG, the inspector general is doing, that could be unlawful,” Pelosi said.
Pompeo has not responded to requests for comment.
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