Trump Fires Top Government Watchdog To Protect Pompeo

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President Donald Trump has again sought to use his presidential powers for personal political benefit. This week, he abruptly announced the firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, whose job is to oversee areas of ethics concern at the department. Following Trump’s notification to Congress of his intent to replace Linick with the Trump appointee Stephen Akard, who currently leads the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) revealed that Linick was apparently investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the time of his firing. That makes the abrupt personnel change, which Trump provided little immediate explanation for, yet another apparent instance of Trump perpetrating political retaliation.

Engel commented:

‘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 himself did not explain the nature of that investigation, but an anonymous Democratic aide told NPR that “the OIG was looking into the Secretary’s misuse of a political appointee at the Department to perform personal tasks for himself and Mrs. Pompeo.” That’s actually the same sort of misconduct that has been documented elsewhere in the Trump administration. Among the many scandals that brought down Trump’s first appointee as EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, was the revelation that he’d been using government resources for personal benefit.

Engel has “promised to press the State Department for answers” in Linick’s case, NPR summarizes. The president has fired a slew of other oversight officials recently, and these firings frequently reek of political retaliation. Trump fired Michael Atkinson from his post as inspector general for the intelligence community after the official forwarded the whistleblower complaint to Congress that helped kickstart the impeachment proceedings against Trump, and he moved to oust Christi Grimm from her role as acting inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services after she outlined the basic facts of medical equipment procurement struggles amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has already faced another round of criticism for firing Linick from the State Department. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) commented:

‘Another Inspector General fired by Trump in the dead of night. Another apparent act of retaliation and cover up. To shield a loyal cabinet secretary from oversight and accountability. And undermine the rule of law. This surfeit of corruption must end. And soon.’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) added:

‘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.’

Trump doesn’t exactly seem concerned about any of these criticisms. He has consistently refused to acknowledge any problems with the actions of himself or his administration. This Saturday morning, he even tweeted that his team has done a supposedly great job with their Coronavirus response, although just to be clear, tens of thousands of Americans are dead, and it didn’t have to be this way.