A firestorm of criticism has been aimed at President Trump after he fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, after urging from Secretary Mike Pompeo, with Democrats once again accusing Trump of abusing his power to avoid oversight.
Democrats in Congress denounced the firing and launched an investigation. Reporters said Linick's firing came as he was investigating Pompeo for possible misconduct.
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
Today I launched an investigation into President Trump’s firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. @SenatorMenendez and I requested that administration officials preserve all records related to the firing & turn info over to the committees by Friday, May 22. pic.twitter.com/vUtHhgjERG— Eliot Engel (@RepEliotEngel) May 16, 2020
An inspector general has zero coercive power. The IG can’t fire anyone, promote anyone, or make agency decisions.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 16, 2020
Then why is @SecPompeo so scared of IG Steve Linick? Because his sole power is to reveal the truth. Now we in Congress will make sure the truth comes out. https://t.co/ZS3OwYY3Uk
On the firing of State Department inspector general Steve Linick, a White House official says, "Secretary Pompeo recommended the move, and President Trump agreed.”— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) May 16, 2020
This is relevant because officials say Linick had begun an investigation into possible misconduct by Pompeo.
But there's more to the story about Linick that could explain why he was fired.
Pompeo told The Washington Post he was unaware Linick was investigating him and said he recommended for Trump to fire him because he was "undermining" the department's mission.
"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 currently going on,” Pompeo explained. "Because I simply don’t know. I’m not briefed on it. I usually see these investigations in final draft form 24 hours, 48 hours before the IG is prepared to release them. So it’s simply not possible for this to be an act of retaliation. End of story."
Most importantly, Brian Bulatao, the State Department’s undersecretary for management, told the Post Linick was a prime suspect for a "pattern of unauthorized disclosures, or leaks," to the media about investigations that were in an early draft form. While there was no hard evidence of Linick leaking, suspicions were elevated after he referred the leaking investigation to someone else instead of going to the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to have them appoint an impartial investigator.
"Our understanding is he picked another fed agency on his own, to pick the person he wanted to grade his own homework, which sets up a whole apparent conflict of interest," Bulatao said.
Linick was nominated to the position by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2013.
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