“Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG’s removal. A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress,” Grassley, co-chair of the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, wrote in a statement.
Trump told Congress in a May 15 letter that he had decided to dismiss State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, stating: “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.”
A White House official said on May 16 that the decision to oust Linick was prompted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo himself. “Secretary Pompeo recommended the move, and President Trump agreed,” the official said.
Linick is expected to serve for several more weeks as, by law, the administration must give Congress 30 days’ notice of plans to dismiss an inspector general.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was another Republican lawmaker to criticize the move, writing on Twitter that the 2008 Inspector General Reform Act requires a president to detail the reasons for firing an inspector general.
“The President has not provided the kind of justification for the removal of IG Linick required by this law,” Collins wrote.
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a vocal Trump critic, responded more broadly to the dismissal of Linick, who was the fourth watchdog axed in the last three months.
“The firings of multiple Inspectors General is unprecedented; doing so without good cause chills the independence essential to their purpose,” Romney wrote in a tweet. “It is a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of power.”
Defending the president’s actions was senior adviser Peter Navarro, who on Sunday said Trump “clearly has the legal authority” to remove Linick.
“There’s a bureaucracy out there. There’s a lot of people in that bureaucracy who think that they got elected president and not Donald J. Trump,” he told ABC in an interview.
“Some people call it the deep state. I think that’s apt,” Navarro said, adding, “There’s always going to be somebody better to replace them, somebody more loyal—not to the president necessarily—but to the Trump agenda.”
“So, I don’t mourn the loss of people when they leave this bureaucracy,” he added.
In his call for justification of Linick’s dismissal, Grassley said that while he objected to how the watchdog handled the inquiry into the role the State Department played in the controversial Trump-Russia collusion probe, he said the important role inspectors general play in American democracy demands a detailed explanation in case of firing.
“Here again, inspectors general are crucial in correcting government failures and promoting the accountability that the American people deserve,” Grassley said. “Although he failed to fully evaluate the State Department’s role in advancing the debunked Russian collusion investigation, those shortcomings do not waive the President’s responsibility to provide details to Congress when removing an IG.”
Earlier, Grassley and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin sent Linick a letter, in which they raised a series of questions about his inquiry into a key October 2016 meeting between top State Department officials and British ex-spy Christopher Steele, who compiled a controversial dossier that played a key role in launching the probe into the Trump campaign.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz criticized the DOJ and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the bureau’s reliance on Steele’s discredited dossier and to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.