The State Department inspector general who President Donald Trump fired last week was reportedly investigating whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had made a staffer run personal errands for him. Pompeo has faced scrutiny in the past for allegedly using special agents to carry out personal tasks for him and his family.
NBC News and CNN reported Sunday that Steve Linick, a career State Department official who has served as the agency’s inspector general since 2013, had launched a probe into whether Pompeo had made a staffer — described by NBC as a “political appointee who was serving as a staff assistant”— walk his dog, pick up his dry cleaning and make dinner reservations for him and his wife, among other errands.
In an earlier report, NBC, citing a White House official, said Pompeo had “recommended” Linick’s ouster, a suggestion that Trump had “agreed” with.
The network reported Sunday that congressional oversight officials believe Linick’s “firing was direct retaliation for his pursuing the investigation” into Pompeo.
The secretary of state has reportedly been probed in the past for his alleged use of staff to run personal tasks.
CNN reported last summer that Democratic congressional investigators were looking into allegations made by a State Department whistleblower about Pompeo’s alleged use of taxpayer-funded special agents to “pick up Chinese food” and the “Pompeo family dog from a groomer,” among other errands.
Trump announced Linick’s firing in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday.
“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,” Trump wrote.
The president, who has fired multiple inspectors general in recent months, including intelligence community watchdog Michael Atkinson, was criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for Linick’s abrupt removal.
“As I’ve said before, Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG’s removal. A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on Saturday of Linick’s ouster.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) described the firings of multiple inspectors general as “unprecedented.”
″[D]oing so without good cause chills the independence essential to their purpose,” he tweeted. “It is a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of power.”
In a statement Friday, Rep. Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Linick had recently opened a probe into Pompeo, though he didn’t elaborate on the nature of the investigation.
The New York congressman said the timing of Linick’s removal suggested “an unlawful act of retaliation.” He and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking Democrat of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, have since launched an investigation into Linick’s ouster.
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