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Trump fires State Department watchdog Steve Linick

Trump fires State Dept. watchdog
Trump fires State Dept. watchdog 00:38

President Trump has fired the inspector general of the State Department, Steve Linick, sources told CBS News on Friday night. The sources added that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recommended the action to President Trump and supports Linick's removal, which was later confirmed by a White House official.

"Secretary Pompeo recommended the move, and President Trump agreed," the official said. 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez, both Democrats, announced on Saturday that they would open an investigation into Linick's firing. In a letter to the White House, the Department of State, and the State Department Office of Inspector General, the two requested that administration officials preserve all records related to the firing and turn information over to the committees by Friday, May 22.

"President Trump's unprecedented removal of Inspector General Linick is only his latest sacking of an inspector general, our government's key independent watchdogs, from a federal agency. We unalterably oppose the politically-motivated firing of inspectors general and the President's gutting of these critical positions," wrote Engel and Menendez.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Linick's firing. "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," she tweeted

Last month, two watchdogs in key positions were ousted. 

On April 3, Mr. Trump fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community who handled the complaint from a whistleblower that led to impeachment proceedings against the president. 

Days later, on April 7, Mr. Trump removed Glenn Fine from his position as acting inspector general of the Pentagon where he would have overseen $2.2 trillion in spending for coronavirus relief.  

Engel on Friday called the firing an "outrageous act," and claimed Linick's office had opened an investigation into Pompeo before he was fired. 

"This firing is the outrageous act of a President trying to protect one of his most loyal supporters, the Secretary of State, from accountability," Engel said in a statement. "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." 

"This President believes he is above the law. As he systematically removes the official independent watchdogs from the Executive Branch, the work of the Committee on Foreign Affairs becomes that much more critical," Engel added. "In the days ahead, I will be looking into this matter in greater detail, and I will press the State Department for answers." 

Ambassador Stephen J. Akard will replace Linick, a State Department spokesperson told CBS News. Akard is the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, and has also worked as a career foreign service officer with the State Department. 

"We look forward to him leading the Office of the Inspector General," the spokesperson said. 

Grace Segers contributed to this report.

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