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Democrats demand reinstatement of State Department inspector general fired by Trump

Democrats demand reinstatement of State Department inspector general fired by Trump
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Steve Linick, State Department inspector general, center, exits after closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

House Democratic committee leaders Thursday demanded the immediate reinstatement of the inspector general President Donald Trump fired on a recommendation from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

State Department Inspector General Steve Linick’s ouster is the latest in “a series of politically motivated firings of Inspectors General by President Trump,” the Democrats said in letters to Pompeo and Linick’s temporary replacement, Stephen Akard. 

The letters mark the latest escalation in the backlash against Pompeo, who said Wednesday that he had recommended Trump fire Linick. Pompeo denied that he was retaliating against Linick, who was reportedly conducting at least two investigations involving the nation’s top diplomat.

“Based on longstanding concerns with your actions — and new reports this week about potential abuses — this assault on the integrity and independence of Inspectors General appears to be an intentional campaign to undermine their ability to expose corruption and protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse,” the Democrats wrote to Pompeo.

The committee chairs requested a slew of materials related to the Friday night firing, including communications about Linick’s removal and documents showing Akard’s qualifications to replace him. The Democrats, citing a report this week from NBC News, also asked Pompeo to send them guest lists and manifests for a series of “lavish,” federally funded dinners reportedly held by Pompeo and his wife while in office.

The letters set a June 4 deadline for Pompeo and Akard to comply with the requests. 

The Democrats also urged Akard to resign as the department’s acting inspector general, or “at a minimum” step down from his prior role as director of the Office of Foreign Missions, which he reportedly continues to hold. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Akard would essentially be overseeing himself if he held onto both jobs. 

The joint letter was signed by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.

The State Department did not immediately provide a response to the letters, and did not immediately answer questions about Akard posed by CNBC.

Trump said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Friday night that he lost “confidence” in the watchdog, without providing further explanation.

Pompeo also did not provide a more detailed explanation for the firing when asked at the briefing. Both have maintained that Trump had the right to fire Linick.

Linick had opened an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Pompeo involving a department official performing personal tasks for him and his wife, Susan Pompeo, NBC reported. Linick was reportedly also nearly finished with another probe into Pompeo’s involvement in the Trump administration’s move to strike a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia under an emergency declaration that bypassed the need for congressional approval.

Engel and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had already asked for the Trump administration to hand over documents related to Linick’s removal by Friday.

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