WASHINGTON (CN) — Amplifying scrutiny on the recent firing of the State Department inspector general, one lawmaker revealed Monday that Steve Linick had been investigating not only Secretary Mike Pompeo but President Donald Trump as well.
“I’ve learned there may be another reason for IG Linick’s firing,” Representative Eliot Engel tweeted this afternoon. “His office was investigating — at my request — Trump’s phony emergency declaration so he could send Saudi Arabia weapons. We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Sec Pompeo wanted Linick pushed out.”
Suggestions of foul play were quick to follow this weekend after Trump abruptly dismissed the longtime prosecutor whom President Barack Obama had installed in the independent watchdog role in 2013.
As part of his duties to investigate waste, fraud and abuse of the State Department’s $70 billion budget, Linick was reportedly investigating claims that Pompeo treated his staff improperly and used them to carry out personal tasks.
The link spurred Engel and Senator Bob Menendez on Friday night to demand that the White House preserve its records on Linick and submit any relevant documents to Congress no later than May 22. While Engel chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Menendez is the ranking member of its companion in the Senate.
Linick’s ouster, set to take effect in June, has drawn bipartisan pushback. In a letter to the White House, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa noted Monday that the law requires Trump to provide a full explanation for firing Linick, saying a mere notification is not sufficient. Trump’s announcement Friday cited only that he has lost confidence in Linick.
There was bipartisan uproar this time last year as well when the president issued an emergency declaration to sell arms to Saudi Arabia for $8 billion. Though U.S. law mandates the president notify Congress of the intent to sell weapons to a foreign power, and to give the House and Senate 30 days to vote on approving or denying the sale, Trump did not do so.
The arms deal came mere months after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in a Saudi Arabian consulate.
Though the Senate attempted to block the sale, the president vetoed all resolutions passed by Republican-controlled chamber.
Linick is only the latest inspector general put on the chopping block by Trump since his acquittal by the Senate for abuse of power and obstruction.
In April, the president ousted Christi Grimm, principal deputy inspector general for the Health and Human Services Department, after the agency released a damning report about pervasive medical equipment shortages plaguing the U.S.
Also fired last month was Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who oversaw the whistleblower complaint that led to the president’s impeachment, and Glenn Fine, the Department of Defense acting inspector general tasked with overseeing the federal government’s Covid-19 relief spending.
The streak of dismissals prompted the House to propose legislation that, if passed, would alter existing law around how a president can remove special auditors. Specifically, the president would have to prove why the person up for removal was neglectful or malfeasant in their duties.
That bill has not moved through the House since May 1 when it was first introduced.
Neither the White House nor the State Department has returned a request for comment.