Trump Fires State Department Watchdog Who Provided Ukraine Documents to Congress

The official was reportedly investigating alleged misuse of resources by the secretary of state and his wife.

Evan Vucci/AP

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On Friday night, President Donald Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, replacing him with Ambassador Stephen Akard, an ally of Vice President Mike Pence. The move, which angered Congressional Democrats, is the fourth firing of such an independent watchdog in recent weeks.

“The president’s late-night, weekend firing of the State Department inspector general has accelerated his dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

According to Politico, Linick recently launched an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s alleged misuse of a political appointee to perform personal tasks for him and his wife. The ousted official also had a minor role in the US House’s impeachment of Trump late last year, when he agreed to provide relevant documents to congressional investigators against the general wishes of the president. 

As Mother Jones reported last month in the wake of the dismissal of Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general, Trump has come under fire for his repeated removals of federal officials tasked with independent oversight:

In an extraordinary admission during a press conference Saturday, Trump indicated that he fired Atkinson as retaliation for the watchdog’s role informing Congress of a whistleblower report detailing Trump’s effort last year to coerce Ukraine into producing dirt on his political opponents. “He took a fake report and he brought it to Congress,” Trump said, ignoring the reality that the complaint was shown to be accurate by a slew of witnesses who testified before the House of Representatives, and that Atkinson was legally required to inform lawmakers of its existence. 

At least one congressional committee is looking into whether Atkinson’s ouster, in addition to addressing Trump’s craving for revenge, also aimed to thwart ongoing probes by the IG’s office. 

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said in a late night statement that he believed the firing was an act of retaliation and that he would be demanding more answers. “This firing is the outrageous act of a President trying to protect one of his most loyal supporters, the Secretary of State, from accountability,” he said. “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.” 

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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