Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday penned a letter to President Donald Trump demanding to know the official reason behind his decision to terminate State Department Inspector General (IG) Steve Linick, saying the president’s declaration that he “no longer” had the “fullest confidence” in the IG was not sufficient.
“As you know, Congress created inspectors general to combat waste, fraud, and abuse, and to be independent watchdogs holding federal agencies accountable to the taxpayer. In light of their important and unique role, they report to both the President and Congress. To guard them from unwarranted political attacks from all sides, including from officials that they are duty bound to critique, Congress provided IGs with some additional protections,” Grassley wrote. “As mentioned in previous letters, Congress’s intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the IG Reform Act.”
Trump informed Congress of his intent to fire Linick in a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday. When doing so, he wrote that it is “vital” he has the fullest confidence in IGs and said that was “no longer the case with regard to [IG Linick],” without providing any underlying reasoning.
Trump used the exact same wording when he fired Intelligence Community IG Michael Atkinson last month, which in turn mirrors the precise language used by former President Barack Obama when he fired Gerald Walpin as the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) IG in 2009.
The Obama White House followed up with Congress one week later, however, providing a detailed reasoning for Walpin’s firing. The administration said that professional complaints had been filed against Walpin, that he had been absent from the office for extensive periods of time, and that he “lacked candor in providing material information to decision makers” (see more on “lack of candor“).
Further complicating the matter is the fact that Linick, who was reportedly investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is being replaced by an ally of Vice President Mike Pence. Grassley’s letter addressed both this and the appointment of Howard “Skip” Elliott as acting IG of the Department of Transportation (the agency run by Secretary Elaine Chao, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife).
“These concerns are only amplified when an acting IG is appointed from the agency that the IG oversees, a situation that creates obvious conflicts of interest,” Grassley wrote. “And particularly when, as is alleged here (and in the case of the new acting Inspector General for the Department of Transportation), the newly appointed acting IG leadership are political appointees at the agency, who reportedly plan to keep their political appointments while serving as head of an inspector general office. If this is true, it means that while still reporting to the agency secretary, they will have oversight of and access to all confidential inspector general information, including whistleblower complaints and identities.”
Grassley asked the president to provide a detailed reasoning for his removal of Linick no later than June 1.
The White House said Monday that it was actually Pompeo who requested Linick’s ouster.
Trump said he was “happy to do it,” it being sending Linick packing.
Read Grassley’s full letter to Trump below:
[image via Erin Schaff-Pool_Getty Images]
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