Democratic lawmakers probe into Trump's firing of State Department watchdog

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House, Monday, May 11, 2020, in Washington. A State Department official told Fox News on Saturday that Pompeo had recommended Trump to fire Linick.

In a letter to the Speaker of the House, Trump said Steve Linick no longer had his full confidence and that he would be removed from the post within 30 days.

Two senior Democrats - Senator Bob Menendez and congressman Eliot Engel - said in a statement they "unalterably oppose the politically-motivated firing".

The act of firing Linick has been criticized by Democrats, who announced they are launching an investigation into the situation.

The California Democrat warned that the action will set back the Office of Inspector General's duties to perform "critical audits, investigations and inspections of USA embassies and programs around the world "during the coronavirus pandemic".

A Democratic aide told Al-Monitor that the House Foreign Affairs Committee "has received information that this investigation was tied to his removal".

Pelosi accused Trump subsequently, in a communication to punish Linick to protect the Constitution and national security.

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It wasn't immediately clear what led to the decision, but Trump has repeatedly clashed with independent federal watchdogs, challenging their findings and implying they might have a political agenda.

Mr Linick's was said to be investigating US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

A State Department spokesperson also confirmed that the new inspector general would be Akard, an attorney who served as a foreign affairs advisor to Pence when the latter was governor of Indiana.

Akard was confirmed by the Senate 90-2 on September 11, 2019, to lead the State Department's Office of Foreign Missions, according to the spokesperson. He had been nominated to be the director general of the foreign service but withdrew after objections he wasn't experienced enough.

Linick was appointed to the inspector general post by President Barack Obama.

The firings of multiple inspectors-general is unprecedented; doing so without good cause chills the independence essential to their objective. Navarro's comments can potentially escalate the tensions between the Democrats who have raised concerns that Trump was supposedly firing watchdogs whom he thinks may pose as a threat to his presidency. Casualties of the purge include coronavirus response watchdog Glenn Fine and intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson, who was involved in the impeachment investigation of Trump. The inspector general was also reportedly looking into whether Pompeo had a staffer run personal errands for him.

"It is not possible that this decision, or my recommendation rather, to the president rather, was based on any effort to retaliate for any investigation that was going on, or is now going on", Pompeo was quoted as saying by the Post.

  • Sonia Alvarado