WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, saying he had lost confidence in the watchdog's ability to serve.
Trump did not give a reason for his loss of confidence but said in a letter late Friday that his removal would be effective in 30 days.
Linick, who was appointed inspector general in 2013 during the Obama administration, is the latest in a series of independent government watchdogs to be ousted in recent weeks.
Democratic lawmakers heavily criticized Linick's removal, suggesting he may have been targeted for opening an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
'Act of retaliation'
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel accused Trump of acting to protect "one of his most loyal supporters."
"Mr Linick's dismissal in the midst of such an investigation strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation," he said.
He did not elaborate on the details of the alleged probe, but a Democratic congressional aide cited by news agency Agence France-Presse said Linick was looking into claims that Pompeo had misused a political appointee to carry out personal tasks for himself and his wife.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Linick was being "punished for honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security.''
She said the dismissal marked an acceleration of "a dangerous patter of retaliation" from Trump.
String of dismissals
Earlier this month, the president ousted Christi Grimm — who had been leading the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General — after she identified serious medical shortages in hospitals dealing with COVID-19 patients.
That followed Trump's sacking in April of Glenn Fine, a top coronavirus watchdog whose job it was to monitor the government's financial relief response to the pandemic. Also last month, Trump notified Congress he was firing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the US intelligence community who was involved in launching last year's impeachment probe into the president.
According to broadcaster CNN, Linick also played a "small" role in impeachment proceedings against Trump.
The US State Department said Linick would be replaced by Stephen Akard, the director of the Office of Foreign Missions.
(AFP, Reuters, AP)