BREAKING: Trump ousts State Department watchdog, Pelosi Releases Statement in Response

Per TheHill, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was ousted Friday evening, becoming the latest government watchdog to be removed from his post. A State Department spokesperson confirmed to The Hill that Ambassador Stephen Akard, a former career Foreign Service officer, will replace Linick, who was appointed to the role in 2013 by then-President Obama.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted in response:

The late-night, weekend firing of State Department IG Steve Linick is an acceleration of the President’s dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people.

Politico reports President Donald Trump has removed State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and replaced him with an ally of Vice President Mike Pence — the latest in a series of moves against independent government watchdogs in recent months.

Trump informed Congress of his intent to oust Linick, a Justice Department veteran appointed to the role in 2013 by then President Barack Obama, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday night.

The president said he “no longer” had the “fullest confidence” in Linick and promised to send the Senate a nominee “who has my confidence and who meets the appropriate qualifications.” The executive branch is required to notify Congress 30 days ahead of time if it intends to remove an inspector general.

Trump’s move infuriated Democrats who say he’s trying to circumvent oversight of his administration, undermining the ability of other branches to hold him accountable. The move follows Trump’s anger at being impeached, but it also comes as the White House struggles to combat the coronavirus pandemic just months before the presidential election.

“The president’s late-night, weekend firing of the State Department inspector general has accelerated his dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people,” Pelosi said in an statement. “Inspector General Linick was punished for honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security, as required by the law and by his oath.”

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, called Linick’s dimissal an “outrageous act of a president trying to protect one of his most loyal supporters, the secretary of State, from accountability.”

Engel claimed, in an assertion POLITICO has not independently confirmed: “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 retaliation.”

Linick played a minor role in the House of Representatives’ impeachment proceedings against Trump, ferrying a trove of documents to lawmakers that had been provided to the State Department by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.

A State Department spokesperson said that Amb. Stephen Akard, a former career Foreign Service officer, “will now lead the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department” in an acting capacity.