House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she wants details about the President Donald Trump’s decision to fire State Department Inspector General (IG) Steve Linick.
Pelosi sent a letter to Trump insisting that he give more specific answers as to why Linick was fired, even though the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have given their reasons.
“Protecting the transparency and accountability in government that is embodied by the vital work of Inspectors General requires that Congress know whether there is clear and substantial cause for an Inspector General’s removal,” Pelosi wrote in her letter (pdf) on Monday.
Trump said at a round table with restaurant executives Tuesday that Pompeo requested the move to fire the IG and that it is within his executive authority to do so.
“But they did ask me to do it and I did it. I have the right to terminate the inspector generals. And I would have—I would have suggested—and I did suggest, in pretty much all cases, you get rid of the attorney generals, because it happens to be very political, whether you like it or not. And many of these people were Obama appointments, and so I just got rid of him,” the president said.
Trump sent Pelosi a notice of Linick’s dismissal Friday, which will be finalized in 30 days.
Pelosi said Trump’s decision to fire Linick is part of “a pattern of undermining the integrity of the Inspectors General and therefore our government.”
Trump has fired five inspectors general since taking office.
Obama also fired IG’s when he was president and IG’s under Obama faced major obstructions when trying to conduct their oversight.
During the Obama administration, a group of 47—out of the nation’s 73 federal—inspectors general signed an open letter (pdf) opposing the obstruction of their fellow IGs’ investigations. The 2014 letter said the White House had imposed “serious limitations on access to records that have recently impeded the work of Inspectors General at the Peace Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Justice.”
They wrote that the IG’s “have recently faced restrictions on their access to certain records available to their agencies that were needed to perform their oversight work in critical areas.”
Pompeo Recommended Trump Fire Linick
Pompeo clarified that he asked the president to fire Linick because Linick was not contributing to the state department the way he was instructed.
“I went to the President and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department, very consistent with what the statute says he’s supposed to be doing,” he told The Washington Post. “The kinds of activities he’s supposed to undertake to make us better, to improve us.”
According to the state department, Linick was responsible for providing “oversight of more than 70,000 Department of State and U.S. Agency for Global Media employees, 270 overseas missions and other facilities worldwide, and more than $70 billion in Department of State, U.S. Agency for Global Media, and foreign assistance resources.”
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) had called on Linick to investigate Pompeo over a Saudi arms sale.
“We unalterably oppose the politically-motivated firing of inspectors general and the President’s gutting of these critical positions,” Engel and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote in a statement.
Pelosi reiterated Engel’s concern, writing, “especially in light of revelations that Mr. Linick’s firing may have been linked to an investigation into the approval of an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia opposed by the Congress.”
Pompeo denied the charge that firing Linick was in any way a retaliation.
“It is not possible that this decision, or my recommendation rather, to the president, was based on any effort to retaliate for any investigation that was going on or is currently going on,” Pompeo told The Washington Post.