(CN) — President Donald Trump fired the State Department’s inspector general Steve Linick late Friday, an independent watchdog who had begun an investigation into improper behavior by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Trump wrote in a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”
In a statement made Friday night, House Foreign Affairs Committee chair and Democrat Eliot Engel called the firing an act of retaliation.
“This firing is the outrageous act of a president trying to protect one of his most loyal supporters, the secretary of state, from accountability,” Engel said. “I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo. Mr Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation.”
According to media reports, anonymous congressional aides said Linick was investigating claims that Pompeo improperly treated his staff and used them to carry out personal tasks.
The removal of Linick, an Obama appointee who has held the job since 2013, will take effect in 30 days.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke out against Linick’s removal Friday evening.
“The late-night, weekend firing of State Department IG Steve Linick is an acceleration of the President’s dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people,” she said in a statement.
“The president must cease his pattern of reprisal and retaliation against the public servants who are working to keep Americans safe, particularly during this time of global emergency,” she added.
Linick’s firing is just the latest of government watchdogs let go by President Trump. In April, the president fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community who informed Congress of the complaint about Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president.
That complaint led to the investigation and subsequent impeachment of the president by the Democratic-held House of Representatives. In a trial in the Republican-led Senate, Trump was acquitted of all charges.
Since Atkinson’s firing, House Democrats have tried to pass legislation that prevents presidents from removing inspectors general for anything other than good cause.
Stephen Akard, who currently runs the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions is expected to replace Linick, according to media reports.