President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump tears into ’60 Minutes’ after segment with whistleblower Bright James Woods defends Trump: He ‘loves America more than any president in my lifetime’ Kansas governor to meet with Trump at White House MORE reportedly removed a State Department inspector general who was reviewing whether Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoChina emerges as potential strain on US-Israel relationship Pompeo warns China over alleged interference in US reporting in Hong Kong Afghan president, rival end stalemate MORE made a member of his staff perform personal errands.
Two congressional officials assigned to separate committees told NBC News that Steve Linick was investigating whether Pompeo made the staffer walk his dog, pick up dry cleaning and arrange dinner reservations, among other tasks, for him and his wife. The officials noted that they are currently in the process of finding out if Linick had any other ongoing inquiries into Pompeo. The Washington Post reported on the details as well.
The staffer who reportedly performed the errands is a political appointee who served as a staff assistant, the officials added.
Trump late Friday night sent a letter to congressional leaders announcing that he was removing Linick, who was appointed to the role in 2013 by former President Obama, and replacing him with Stephen Akard, a former career Foreign Service officer. Trump said in the note that he “no longer” had the “fullest confidence” in Linick.
Democratic lawmakers swiftly rebuked the Trump administration over the firing, arguing that it was politically motivated. Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) on Saturday launched a probe into the matter and said they suspected Linick’s ouster was linked to “an investigation into wrongdoing by Pompeo himself.”
“Reports indicate that Secretary Pompeo personally made the recommendation to fire Mr. Linick, and it is our understanding that he did so because the inspector general had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Secretary Pompeo himself,” the lawmakers said.
The two are asking the White House, State Department and Office of the Inspector General to turn over all records related to Linick’s ouster within a week.
The House first obtained information about Linick’s investigation into Pompeo after Trump announced his removal, NBC News noted.
Engel’s office and the State Department did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.
An anonymous White House official told multiple news outlets over the weekend that Trump fired Linick after Pompeo “recommended” the move.
Linick was the latest inspector general to be removed from his post in recent months. Trump in early April removed intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson and acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, who had been tasked with overseeing the management of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFormer national economic council director: I agree with 50 percent of House Democrats’ HEROES Act Pelosi stresses urgency for next relief bill: Hunger, joblessness don’t ‘take a pause’ Ron Johnson says he’s not ‘crying big crocodile tears’ over firing of State Department IG MORE (D-Calif.) called the latest move part of a “dangerous pattern of retaliation” against public officials charged with conducting oversight.
“The president has the right to fire any federal employee, but the fact is if it looks like it’s in retaliation for something the IG is doing, that could be unlawful,” she said on CBS’s “Face The Nation” on Sunday.
Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPompeo recommended Trump remove State Dept. inspector general: reports Clapper: ‘Routine’ to ask to ‘unmask’ unknown individuals in intelligence reports The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by The American Investment Council – Trump takes his ‘ready to reopen’ mantra on the road MORE (R-Iowa), co-chairman of the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, has also said that Congress deserves a more comprehensive reason for Linick’s ouster. He said in a statement Saturday that a “general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress.”