Reps. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform along with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations announced Friday that their committees’ will widen a probe into the firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
The bicameral group said they plan to conduct interviews with key officials who may have knowledge about the IG’s firing and how the State Department Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) ongoing investigations may have prompted Secretary Pompeo’s decision to have him fired.
In a statement, the ranking members said they want to be sure that Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s decision to fire the IG, was not prompted by Linick’s investigation into the Secretary’s work at the State Department.
“Congress has demanded answers about the abrupt firing of the Inspector General, but Secretary Pompeo has failed to explain his actions. We call upon administration officials to comply and appear for interviews with the Committees, and for Secretary Pompeo to comply with the Committees’ investigation and not obstruct the American people from discovering the truth about his own actions,” they said.
“As these interviews take place, we plan to make public the transcripts of those proceedings as quickly as possible. The truth about Mr. Linick’s firing will come out,” they added.
Engel, Maloney, and Menendez are not the only lawmakers who have asked the Trump administration for justification of his decision to fire the IG.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has expressed dissatisfaction with a White House response to his concerns over the rationale for the President’s firing of the inspector general.
In a May 26 statement, Grassley acknowledged Trump’s “constitutional and statutory authority” in dismissing the inspectors general for the State Department and Intelligence Community but noted that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone failed to provide sufficient justification for the firing.
“The White House Counsel’s response failed to address this requirement, which Congress clearly stated in statute and accompanying reports. I don’t dispute the president’s authority under the Constitution, but without sufficient explanation, it’s fair to question the president’s rationale for removing an inspector general,” Grassley said.
Grassley said that without providing a solid justification for the dismissals, “the American people will be left speculating whether political or self-interests are to blame. That’s not good for the presidency or government accountability.”
Cipollone responded in a letter on Tuesday (pdf), saying that “President Trump appreciates and respects your longstanding support for the role that inspectors general play,” but that “when the President loses confidence in an inspector general, he will exercise his constitutional right and duty to remove that officer—as did President Reagan when he removed inspectors general upon taking office and as did President Obama when he was in office.”
Grassley, responding to Cipollone’s letter, stated that, “Government Accountability isn’t only a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. Inspectors general shouldn’t be politically motivated or politically targeted. And those of us in Congress have a duty to promote accountability, regardless of who is in office.”
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.