Dems to Interview Watchdog Linick 05/31 09:53
Members of three House and Senate committees will interview former State
Department Inspector General Steve Linick on Wednesday as part of an
investigation by House Democrats into his abrupt firing by President Donald
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Members of three House and Senate committees will
interview former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick on Wednesday
as part of an investigation by House Democrats into his abrupt firing by
President Donald Trump.
Linick will speak to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the
House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, according to two congressional aides working on the investigation
who requested anonymity to discuss the closed-door meeting.
Democrats announced Friday that they are expanding their probe into Linick's
firing earlier this month with a series of interviews. The investigation is
part of a larger effort by Democrats and some Republicans to find out more
about Trump's recent moves to sideline several independent government watchdogs.
The Democrats plan to interview multiple officials in the administration who
may have more information about Linick's dismissal on May 15, including whether
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recommended the firing for retaliatory reasons.
Pompeo has denied Linick's firing was retaliatory but has not given specific
reasons for his dismissal.
The investigation is being led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman
Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney,
D-N.Y., and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee. Republicans on those panels will also be invited
to question Linick and other witnesses.
"If Secretary Pompeo pushed for Mr. Linick's dismissal to cover up his own
misconduct, that would constitute an egregious abuse of power and a clear
attempt to avoid accountability," the Democrats said in a joint statement
The committees said they will release transcripts shortly after each
It's unclear whether Linick will come to Capitol Hill in person or appear
virtually for the transcribed interviews. The House will be out of session over
the coming week as lawmakers work from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The committee has asked several other State Department officials to sit for
interviews in the probe, including Undersecretary of State for Management Brian
Bulatao, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Clarke Cooper,
Pompeo's executive secretary Lisa Kenna and acting State Department legal
adviser Marik String, according to the congressional aides.
Democrats and some Republicans have pushed the administration for more
answers about the firings, but the White House has provided few, simply stating
the dismissals were well within Trump's authority.
Pompeo said after the firing that he had been concerned about the inspector
general's work for some time and that he regretted not calling for his
dismissal earlier. He said he recommended to Trump that Linick be terminated.
Pompeo told reporters that he was unaware of any investigation into
allegations that he may have mistreated staffers by instructing them to run
personal errands for him and his wife such as walking his dog and picking up
dry cleaning and takeout food. Thus, Pompeo said, the move could not have been
Pompeo did acknowledge that he was aware of an investigation into his
decision last year to bypass congressional objections to approve a
multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia because he had answered written
questions about it posed by Linick's office. He maintained he did not know the
scope or scale of the investigation.
Engel and Menendez have been demanding answers and documents from the State
Department and Pompeo personally for months on a variety of topics that goes
far beyond Linick's dismissal.
After complaining for more than a year that Pompeo and his staff have either
refused to respond or provided only perfunctory answers to questions posed on
personnel and policy matters, the two Democrats and their Democratic committee
colleagues have teamed up to try to force a complete explanation from Pompeo
and the White House as to why Trump fired Linick.
Engel and Menendez earlier demanded that administration officials preserve
and turn over all records related to Linick's dismissal. They said they have
received no information so far.
Linick is one of several inspectors general whom Trump has removed from
office, sparking outrage among Democrats who say the administration is
undermining government accountability. Linick was an Obama administration
appointee whose office was critical of what it saw as political bias in the
State Department's current management but had also taken issue with Democratic
He played a small role in Trump's impeachment last year. In October, Linick
turned over documents to House investigators that he had received from a close
Pompeo associate that contained information from debunked conspiracy theories
about Ukraine's role in the 2016 U.S. election. Democrats were probing Trump's
pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats.
Linick is the second inspector general to be fired who was involved with the
impeachment process. Michael Atkinson, the former inspector general for the
intelligence community, triggered the impeachment probe when he alerted
Congress about a whistleblower complaint that described a call between Trump
and Ukraine's president last summer. Trump fired Atkinson in April, saying he
had lost confidence in him.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has said the White House is legally required to
provide more answers to Congress about the firings and gave Trump a deadline to
give them. But in a letter to Grassley this week, the administration offered no
new details about why they were let go.
The response from White House counsel Pat Cipollone said that Trump has the
authority to remove inspectors general, that he appropriately alerted Congress
and that he selected qualified officials as replacements.
The president also moved to replace the chief watchdog at the Department of
Health and Human Services, Christi Grimm, who testified that her office was
moving ahead with new reports and audits on the department's response to the
coronavirus pandemic despite Trump's public criticism of her.
In addition, Trump demoted acting Defense Department Inspector General Glenn
Fine, effectively removing him as head of a special board to oversee auditing
of the coronavirus economic relief package. Fine later resigned.