President Trump will go down in the history books for firing more people than any other president.
In virtually all the cases, the officials Trump has fired were individuals he had appointed in the first place.
In the past week or so, he fired the State Department’s inspector general who, it was alleged, had begun looking into misconduct by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Acting on Pompeo’s recommendation, Trump abruptly terminated (Steve A. Linick), again challenging established norms of American governance in his push to rid the federal bureaucracy of officials he considers insufficiently loyal or protective of him and his administration,” The Washington Post reported in a front-page story this week.
There are 78 offices of inspectors general throughout the federal government that were created by the Inspector General Act of 1978. Often nicknamed “watchdogs,” their task is to root out fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement and other wrongdoing.
They are political appointees, but their independence has long been protected. Trump’s latest move is his fourth such firing over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said, “The firings of multiple inspectors general is unprecedented; doing so without good cause chills the independence essential to their purpose. It is a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of power.”
Pompeo defended his recommendation Wednesday, saying he “should have done it earlier, and rejected claims his decision was motivated by political retaliation,” the Reuters news service reported.
While Pompeo declined to explain his reason for requesting Linick’s firing at his news conference, Reuters reported that Linick was “probing whether Pompeo misused a taxpayer-funded political appointee to perform tasks for himself and his wife, such as walking their dog.” Other sources said the non-career State Department employee did various other chores that included picking up Pompeo’s dry cleaning.
“House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-New York) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, Robert Menendez (New Jersey), launched an investigation Saturday into Linick’s firing,” the Post reported.
“There are claims that this was for retaliation, for some investigation that the inspector general’s office here was engaged in. Patently false. I have no sense of what investigations were talking place inside the inspector general’s office,” Pompeo told reporters.
However, Menendez knows, Reuters reported.
He told them “Linick had been investigating Trump’s declaration of a national emergency last year to clear the way for $8 billion in military sales, mostly to Saudi Arabia, sidestepping congressional review,” the news agency reported.
“Crazy stuff,” Pompeo said in response to the allegations, striking back at Menendez. “This is all coming through the office of Senator Menendez.”
But despite the fire and fury Trump and his secretary of state leveled at the government watchdog, Linick still wins high marks and praise from State Department colleagues.
“Many career officials viewed Linick as a dogged investigator of malfeasance who cultivated a reputation for diligence. But for the secretary’s handpicked advisers who found themselves on the wrong end of his investigations, the former prosecutor could be a source of frustration and embarrassment, said four U.S. officials familiar with the matter,” the Post said.
However, powerful Republican lawmakers in Congress were demanding detailed information about why a skilled and unrelenting investigator was being punished for digging out wrongdoing.
Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, pounded out a stinging letter to President Trump demanding a fuller explanation of the firing, saying that his explanation was “not sufficient” to fulfill the Inspector General Reform Act, “a law that enshrines the rights of internal investigators.”
“Please provide a detailed reasoning for the removal of Inspector General Linick no later than June 1,” Grassley wrote.
If there’s any justice in this administration, Linick should get a medal, and the secretary of state should resign. Let him pick up his own dry cleaning.
Donald Lambro has been covering Washington politics for more than 50 years as a reporter, editor and commentator.