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Trump Fires State’s IG to Protect Pompeo from Investigation

The president announced on Friday that he was firing Steve Linick, the State Department’s Inspector General. One possible reason that Linick was removed may have been that he was conducting an investigation into the bogus emergency declaration that the administration used to expedite arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE last year:

House Democrats have discovered that the fired IG had mostly completed an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s widely criticized decision to skirt Congress with an emergency declaration to approve billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia last year, aides on the Foreign Affairs Committee tell me.

“I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick’s firing,” Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement sent to me. “His office was investigating — at my request — Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia.”

If Linick was investigating the bogus emergency declaration, he would have come across reporting that showed how a former Raytheon lobbyist serving at the department was instrumental in pushing through the plan to expedite arms sales that benefited his old employer. He would have discovered that there was no genuine emergency that justified going around Congress. Once his investigation was concluded, it would have found that the emergency declaration was made in bad faith and that the law was abused so that the administration could proceed with arms sales that Congress opposed.

Another reason for the firing was to protect Mike Pompeo from an investigation into the Secretary’s abuses of government resources for personal purposes:

The State Department inspector general fired by President Trump was looking into allegations that a staffer for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was performing domestic errands and chores such as handling dry cleaning, walking the family dog and making restaurant reservations, said a congressional official familiar with the matter.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a statement immediately on Friday objecting to Linick’s firing and suggesting that it might be an illegal act of retaliation. There will now be a Congressional investigation into the circumstances surrounding Linick’s firing. If Trump hoped to reduce the scrutiny on Pompeo by getting rid of Linick, he will be disappointed. It remains to be seen how much of a price Pompeo will pay for this, but the price is likely higher now than it would have been if he hadn’t pushed for removing the inspector general.

Pompeo reportedly recommended Linick’s removal. This is not the first time that Pompeo has been accused of misusing government resources. There was a report last summer that a whistleblower alleged that Pompeo and his wife were using Diplomatic Security agents as their personal errand boys:

Democrats on a key House congressional committee are investigating allegations from a whistleblower within the State Department about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his family’s use of taxpayer-funded Diplomatic Security — prompting agents to lament they are at times viewed as “UberEats with guns”.

Congressional investigators, who asked for the committee not to be named as they carry out their inquiries, tell CNN that a State Department whistleblower has raised multiple issues over a period of months, about special agents being asked to carry out some questionable tasks for the Pompeo family.

Pompeo has also repeatedly used government resources for domestic travel that seems to have more to do with advancing the Secretary’s political ambitions in Kansas. There has been widespread speculation that he has used official trips in an attempt to lay the groundwork for a possible Senate campaign. If so, it would be a flagrant violation of the Hatch Act. That prompted a call for a special counsel investigation into Pompeo’s travel. If Pompeo and his wife have been using a political appointee as a gofer, that would be more of the same abusive behavior.

Linick has previously clashed with other Trump administration officials at State. Last year, he released a damning report on Brian Hook over his treatment of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, the Iranian-American official who was apparently targeted for political retaliation because of her policy views and ethnic background. The fired inspector general was well-respected at the department, and his firing at Pompeo’s urging will likely cause further demoralization at a department that has already been run into the ground under the Secretary’s dismal leadership.

The Secretary of State seems to think that government funds and personnel are at his disposal for his personal errands and political activities. Linick was doing exactly what an inspector general is supposed to be doing by investigating the allegations against him, and then he was conveniently fired on Pompeo’s recommendation. You could hardly ask for a more straightforward case of a corrupt official using his influence to remove the person responsible for scrutinizing his conduct. If Linick was also fired because he was in the process of exposing the administration’s dishonest push for more arms sales to the Saudi coalition, that makes his removal all the more outrageous and sinister.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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