President Donald Trump fired the State Department's inspector general on the recommendation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a White House official said Saturday.
Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick Friday night, notifying Congress of the decision in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump, who has targeted several government agency watchdogs in the past several weeks, told Congress he no longer had full confidence in Linick, but did not provide an explanation as to why.
"Secretary Pompeo recommended the move, and President Trump agreed," a White House official said.
Democratic lawmakers said the inspector general was investigating potential misconduct by Pompeo.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., launched an investigation into Linick's removal Saturday, claiming Pompeo wanted the inspector general removed because the secretary was under investigation. Menendez and Engel have called for the White House to turn over records related to Linick's firing.
"Such an action, transparently designed to protect Secretary Pompeo from personal accountability, would undermine the foundation of our democratic institutions and may be an illegal act of retaliation," the lawmakers said in press release Saturday. "This concern is amplified by the fact that it came only hours after the House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act, which contains additional legal protections for inspectors general."
Linick was looking into whether Pompeo made a staffer run personal errands, such as walking his dog and picking up his dry cleaning, two congressional officials told NBC News.
The firing of Linick was also met with skepticism by some Republican lawmakers. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Trump must provide details to Congress about why Linick was removed.
"As I've said before, Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG's removal," said Grassley, who co-chairs the Whistleblower Protection Caucus "A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress."
Linick was appointed to the role by the Obama administration and is being replaced by Stephen Akard, a former career foreign service officer with close ties to Vice President Mike Pence, according to the Associated Press.
Menendez and Engel are also requesting information regarding Akard as part of their investigation.
Linick is the latest inspector general to be fired by Trump.
In April, he removed Glenn Fine, who was appointed the watchdog of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill just days before Trump's move. Also in April, Trump fired the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson, who had overseen the whistleblower complaint that led to the president's impeachment.
Earlier this month, Trump moved to replace Christi Grimm, the top watchdog at the Health and Human Services Department, a month after he criticized her for a report detailing "severe shortages" of coronavirus testing kits and other serious issues with the U.S. response to the pandemic.