WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has fired the State Department’s inspector general, an Obama
administration appointee whose office was critical of alleged political bias in the agency’s management.
The ouster is the latest in a series of moves against independent executive branch watchdogs who have
found fault with the Trump administration.
A senior department official said Trump removed Steve Linick from his job on Friday but gave no reason
for his ouster. In a letter to Congress, Trump said Linick, who had held the job since 2013, no longer
had his full confidence and that his removal would take effect in 30 days. Trump did not mention Linick
by name in his letter.
Democrats in Congress immediately cried foul, with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
suggesting that Linick was fired in part in retaliation for opening an unspecified investigation into
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"This firing is the outrageous act of a president trying to protect one of his most loyal
supporters, the secretary of state, from accountability," Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
"I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary
Pompeo. Mr. Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of
Engel offered no details of the alleged investigation into Pompeo, although two congressional aides said
the probe involved allegations that Pompeo may have improperly treated staff. Linick’s office has issued
several reports critical of the department’s handling of personnel matters during the Trump
administration, including accusing some of political appointees of retaliating against career officials.
"If Inspector General Linick was fired because he was conducting an investigation of conduct by
Secretary Pompeo, the Senate cannot let this stand," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. "The
Senate Foreign Relations Committee must get to bottom of what happened here."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also condemned Linick’s ouster, saying he had been "punished for
honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security."
"The president must cease his pattern of reprisal and retaliation against the public servants who
are working to keep Americans safe, particularly during this time of global emergency."
Linick, whose office also took issue with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private
email server while she served as America’s top diplomat, played a minor role in the Ukraine impeachment
investigation into Trump.
In October, Linick turned over documents to House investigators that he had received from State
Department’s Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a close Pompeo associate, which contained information from
debunked conspiracy theories about Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election.
Linick will replaced by Stephen Akard, a former career foreign service officer who has close ties to Vice
President Mike Pence, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke
on condition of anonymity. Akard currently runs the department’s Office of Foreign Missions. He had been
nominated to be the director general of the foreign service but withdrew after objections he wasn’t
Linick, a former assistant U.S. attorney in California and Virginia, had overseen inspector general
reports that were highly critical of the department’s management policies during the Trump
administration. His office had criticized several Trump appointees for their treatment of career staff
for apparently being insufficiently supportive of Trump and his policies.
Under Linick, the State Department’s inspector general office was also critical of former Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson’s hiring freeze and attempts to streamline the agency by slashing its funding and
Trump has been taking aim lately at inspectors general.
In April, he fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, for his role
in the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment.
Then Trump removed Glenn Fine as acting inspector general at the Defense Department, a move that stripped
him of his post as chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.
During a White House briefing on COVID-19, Trump questioned the independence of an inspector general of
the Department of Health and Human Services over a report that said there was a shortage of supplies and
testing at hospitals.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.