Christi Grimm, Coronavirus oversight, Engel, Glenn Fine, HHS inspector general, IG, impeachment, Iran, Linick, medical supply shortages, Menendez, Michael Atkinson, Obama, Pelosi, Saudi, Saudi Arabia, Trump, Trump Administration, UAE, weapons sales
WASHINGTON – A key U.S. Democratic lawmaker suggested Monday that President Donald Trump may have abruptly fired the internal State Department watchdog last week at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s behest because he was nearing completion of a probe into Pompeo’s controversial fast-tracking of arms sales last year to Saudi Arabia.
Initially, Democratic lawmakers contended that Trump ousted Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, because he was investigating claims that Pompeo and his wife Susan have been using a government aide for personal tasks, such as walking their family dog, picking up dry cleaning and making dinner reservations for the couple.
But Congressman Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted, “I’ve learned there may be another reason for IG Linick’s firing. 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.”
Engel said Linick’s probe centered on the Trump administration’s emergency declaration a year ago to bypass Congress to approve $8.1 billion in arms sales to several countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. said at the time the weapons were needed to deter what it called “the malign influence” of Iran throughout the Middle East.
Pompeo said in a statement a year ago, “These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
But several Democratic and Republican lawmakers condemned the arms sales, citing the Saudis’ human rights record and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The White House has acknowledged that Pompeo recommended Linick’s ouster, the fourth time in recent weeks Trump has dismissed an inspector general who has played one role or another in holding his administration to account for its actions. However, inspectors general throughout government agencies serve at the pleasure of U.S. presidents.
Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and Engel sent a joint letter to the White House requesting administration officials turn over documents by Friday related to Linick’s firing.
“The President can’t fire watchdogs without giving a proper reason and justification to Congress – all of Congress. Secret reasons don’t count,” Menendez said Sunday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” show that Linick’s dismissal was “unsavory when you take out someone who is there to … stop waste, fraud, abuse or other violations of the law that … they believed to be happening.
“So, again, let’s take a look and see,” Pelosi said. “The president has the right to fire any federal employee. But the fact is, if it looks like it’s in retaliation for something that the attorney- the IG, the inspector general is doing, that could be unlawful.”
Key Republicans came to Trump’s defense.
Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro told ABC News’s “This Week” show, “I support whatever this president does in terms of his hiring and firing decisions.
“There is a bureaucracy out there and there’s a lot of people in that bureaucracy who think they got elected president and not Donald J. Trump,” Navarro said, “And we’ve had tremendous problem with what some people call the Deep State. I think that’s apt. So, I don’t mourn the loss.”
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, told CNN that he felt that “not all inspector generals are created equal” and noted they “serve at the pleasure of the president.”
Trump previously had dismissed Glenn Fine, who was overseeing the government’s financial relief response to the coronavirus pandemic; Michael Atkinson, who as inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community played a role in triggering Trump’s impeachment late last year; and Christi Grimm, the Health and Human Services inspector general Trump accused of producing a “fake dossier” on medical supply shortages at American hospitals dealing with the pandemic.
Linick was appointed to the State Department inspector general post by former President Barack Obama, a Democrat Trump often criticizes. https://www.voanews.com/usa/democrat-suggests-saudi-arms-sales-behind-firing-state-department-watchdog