Democratic members of Congress launched a parliamentary inquiry Saturday into President Donald Trump’s sacking of a State Department inspector who was conducting an internal investigation on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Elliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Bob Menendez, a Democratic member of the Senate, have opened an investigation into Trump’s sacking of Steve Linick, Inspector General of the State Department.
In a statement, Engel and Menendez said they objected “absolutely that inspectors’ general are excluded for political reasons”.
They added that Linick was investigating complaints that Pompeo might have taken advantage of the powers of a senior official to perform personal tasks for him and his wife.
Pompeo often travels around the world on a government plane with his wife, Susan Pompeo, which is offensive because she does not have any official capacity or role.
The two Democratic officials also demanded that senior government officials retain all documents related to this dismissal and transfer them to the investigating committees by 22 May.
And the US State Department confirmed that Steve Linick was sacked on Friday night, without mentioning the reason.
Trump told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Friday evening that he intends to fire Linick.
It is the third time that Trump has sacked a person who has been monitoring government actions since last April.
Democrats denounced what they saw as a worrying pattern on the part of the president that has traditionally undermined independent oversight.
Engel said he knew Steve Linick had launched an investigation about Pompeo.
“Linick’s dismissal at the height of this kind of investigation strongly suggests that it is a matter of unlawful reprisal”, he added.
An aide to one of the Democratic congressmen, who asked not to be identified, explained that Linick was investigating complaints that Pompeo had exploited a person appointed to political power to perform personal tasks for him and his wife.
CNN quoted a senior State Department official as saying that Pompeo himself had recommended Linick’s dismissal and that it had chosen Stephen Akard, former Vice President Mike Pence’s successor.
By law, the White House must give Congress 30 days’ notice before it intends to end the work of an official inspector general, giving lawmakers time to study the matter and protest the decision.
However, the previous dismissals went through without hindrance, and inspectors who were previously expelled were replaced by political supporters of the president.
CNN reported last year that a reporter complained that the diplomatic security service in charge of protection during the trips had to take care of the family’s dog, for example, or meals.
Pelosi said Linick” was punished because he performed his duty with integrity in protecting the constitution and our national security”.
“The president must stop the revenge habit against government officials who work to preserve the safety of Americans, especially during this period of the global emergency”, she added.
Former president Barack Obama was appointed in 2013 to a long-time Prosecutor-General, Linick, to oversee the budget of America’s seventy billion dollars.
A State Department spokesman said that Stephen Akard had appointed a new inspector general to the ministry.
Akard was a former assistant to Pence.
Since last year, he has been running the foreign missions at the State Department, which is concerned with relations with diplomats in the United States.
Pompeo, 56, is very close to Trump and one of the rare personalities who has managed to avoid any apparent disagreement with the unpopular president.
Pompeo took over as diplomat on April 26, 2018 to succeed Rex Tillerson, whose relations with Trump were strained.
Pompeo propelled a shift in American diplomacy by asserting, contrary to the opinions of many scholars, a theory that the Covid-19 epidemic originated from a Chinese laboratory.
Linick had played a limited role last year in a series of measures to isolate Trump by handing Congress documents to President Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer.
Trump, eventually acquitted by the Senate, was accused by Democrats of suspending military aid earmarked for Ukraine to force Kiev to hand over confusing information to Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Obama.
Since his acquittal, the US president has consistently attacked the “deep state”, criticizing federal officials who obstructed his work.
And transferred or dismissed inspectors general at the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) and Intelligence and the Ministry of Health, as well as Rick Bright, the scientific official who was until the end of April managing the “Advanced Biomedical Research and Development Authority” the government agency in charge of developing treatments and vaccines against the emerging Coronavirus.
Bright stresses that he was sacked, especially because of his opposition to the widespread use of chloroquine, which Trump has stressed has been used for a while.
Critics say such actions threaten an important pillar of democracy.
“Trump does not want the supervision of general inspectors, journalists, Congress or voters”, said Gil Wayne Banks, a lawyer who took over the attorney general’s office during the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon. A threat to our constitution”.