Inspector general Steve Linick ousted, Mike Pence ally to replace him

  • Inspector General Steve Linick was ousted on Friday night, Politico reported. 
  • Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Rep. Eliot Engel claims Linick was fired after launching a probe in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and condemned the move in a statement. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump removed the watchdog for the US State Department on Friday night. Inspector General Linick is the latest inspector general to be ousted, Politico reported. 

The Trump administration notified congressional leaders that it intended to remove Linick; the administration is required to give Congress a 30-day notice before removing an inspector general.

Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, condemned the ousting of Linck on Friday. 

In a statement, Engel wrote that Linick had opened an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and claimed his firing was 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. 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,” Engel wrote. 

 

According to Politico, Linick was appointed to the role in 2013 under former President Barack Obama and played a minor role in impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives against President Donald Trump. 

CNN reported that Linick had a private briefing and gave documents, which included “unfounded allegations of wrongdoing against Biden and former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch,” that the State Department received from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s private attorney to bipartisan staff from eight House and Senate committees. 

“By doing this, he broke ranks with State Department leadership who vowed not to cooperate with the investigation,” CNN reported. 

A Democratic congressional aide told Politico that Linick was investigating Pompeo for “alleged misuse of a political appointee to perform personal tasks for him and Mrs. Pompeo.”

Pompeo recommended Linick’s removal, CNN reported citing a senior State Department official. Pompeo also “ultimately made the decision” to replace Linick with Akard. 

“This is scary and completely unexpected,” a separate State Department source close to Linick told CNN.

Linick will be replaced by Ambassador Stephen J. Akard, an ally to Vice President Mike Pence. In a statement to NPR reporter Michele Kelemen, the State Department said: “the State Department is happy to announce that Ambassador Stephen J. Akard will now lead the Office of the Inspector General.”

Akard was chief of staff for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation under then-governor Pence. He was nominated to serve as the director-general of the Foreign Service, a high-ranking human resources role in 2017 but eventually had his nomination withdrawn after veteran US diplomats were upset that he didn’t have a long tenure of service, typically required for the role, Politico reported. 

In September 2019, he was confirmed to lead the Office of Foreign Missions.

Additionally, another source told CNN that Akard was named: “under the vacancies act to bypass Linick’s deputy, Diana Shaw.” Shaw began in the role this month after working in the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s office. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called the late-night firing “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.”  

“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 said in a letter to Pelosi on Friday night, according to CNN.  

In a statement, Pelosi wrote that Linick was punished for: “honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security, as required by the law and by his oath.”

“It is concerning that the President has taken this action as the House passes The Heroes Act, which contains critical funding for the State Department IG to oversee and ensure the effective, wise spending of coronavirus response funds,” Pelosi wrote. “This firing will set back the important work of the Office of the Inspector General to perform critical audits, investigations, and inspections of US embassies and programs around the world during this crisis.”

Other lawmakers were also critical of Linick’s firing. 

Senator Chris Murphy said called on the Senate to investigate if in fact Linick was fired for looking into Pompeo. 

Trump had fired a number of inspector generals recently, including Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm and Intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson. Grimm issued a critical report on the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and Atkinson handled “a whistleblower report ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment,” Politico reported. 

Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff called the firing: “Another apparent act of retaliation and cover up. To shield a loyal cabinet secretary from oversight and accountability.”

 

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