House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to President Trump on Monday, demanding the president to provide a “detailed and substantial justification” for abruptly firing the State Department Inspector General.
In the letter, Pelosi noted that President Trump did notify Congress that he was removing Steve Linick, the Inspector General of the Department of State within 30 days, he didn’t provide Congress a “clear and substantial cause” for such removal.
“You are required to notify Congress of your removal of an Inspector General,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to President Trump. “It is essential that you also inform Congress of the cause for the removal and your lack of confidence.”
President Trump sent a letter to Pelosi Friday evening informing her that he had fired Linick, stating it was vital the president has “the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspector General,” and “that is no longer the case.”
The House Speaker believes Trump’s action to fire Linick was based in response to the Inspector General’s almost completed investigation to the Trump administration’s multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. She is requesting the president provide Congress with justification, as required by law for Linick’s removal within 30 days.
“It is alarming to see news reports that your action may have been in response to Inspector General Linick nearing completion of an investigation into the approval of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” Pelosi wrote. “Therefore, I am asking that you provide detailed and substantial justification for the removal of Inspector General Linick before the end of the 30 day period.”
Some Republicans are also pressing President Trump to justify his reasoning in firing Linick. Earlier, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Senate senior Republican also sent a letter to the president to explain as required by law his reasoning behind firing the State Department Inspector General.
In the letter to Trump, Grassley noted that “lost confidence” is not sufficient to dismiss an inspector general under the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008.
“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,” Grassley wrote. “This is in large part because Congress intended that inspectors general only be removed when there is clear evidence of unfitness, wrongdoing, or failure to perform the duties of the office.”
He also noted that Trump has yet to respond to a previous letter sent in early April that also asked for a “detailed reasoning” as to why he removed Michael Atkinson from his post as the Intelligence Community Inspector General.
Grassley asked the president to “provide a detailed reasoning” for firing Linick no later than June 1 and a written response about Atkinson “as soon as possible.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Monday in an interview that he had recommended to President Trump to fire Linick because he was “undermining” the State Department’s mission and was not based on any retaliation of “any investigation that was going on.”
“I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department, very consistent with what the statute says he’s supposed to be doing,” Pompeo said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It is not possible that this decision, or my recommendation rather, to the president rather, was based on any effort to retaliate for any investigation that was going on or is currently going on. Because I simply don’t know. I’m not briefed on it. I usually see these investigations in final draft form 24 hours, 48 hours before the IG is prepared to release them.”
Pompeo said that no reason is needed to give for firing Linick since he is a presidential appointee.
“The president obviously has the right to have an inspector general,” he said. “Just like every presidentially confirmed position, I can terminate them. They serve at his pleasure for any reason or no reason.”
The State Department announced Friday that Linick will be replaced by Ambassador Stephen Akard, the director of the Office of Foreign Missions.