The State Department inspector general fired by President Donald Trump last week was investigating whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a staffer perform a variety of personal errands, including walking his dog, picking up dry cleaning and making a dinner reservation for him and his wife, a Democratic aide told CNN.
The revelation will likely add new scrutiny to Trump’s firing of Steve Linick on Friday evening – the latest in a series of dismissals of independent government watchdogs tasked with oversight of the President’s administration. A senior State Department official previously confirmed to CNN that Pompeo recommended Linick be removed, but they did not know the reasons why.
NBC News first reported the details of Linick’s investigation into Pompeo. CNN reached out to the State Department for a statement but has not yet received a response.
Trump’s latest late-night firing of an inspector general as the media’s attention was focused on the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 89,000 Americans, prompted immediate bipartisan criticism from lawmakers including Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, a longtime proponent of inspectors general.
“As I’ve said before, Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG’s removal. A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress,” Grassley said on Saturday, referring to the justification for Linick’s firing cited by Trump.
“It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General,” Trump said in a letter sent late Friday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Grassley told CNN’s Manu Raju on May 4 that he did not think more legislation was necessary to protect IGs, saying, “I think we have plenty of laws to protect inspectors general.”
CNN reached out to Grassley Sunday to see if his stance has since changed but have not yet received a response.
Romney called the firings ‘a threat to accountable democracy’
Later on Saturday, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney called the firings “a threat to accountable democracy.”
“The firings of multiple Inspectors General is unprecedented; doing so without good cause chills the independence essential to their purpose. It is a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of power,” the Utah Republican tweeted.
News about the nature of Linick’s investigation comes after the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, said Friday the State Department watchdog was investigating Pompeo, though the New York Democrat did not provide any further details about the scope of this investigation.
“I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo,” Engel said in his statement denouncing the firing.
CNN reported Friday night that the inspector general investigation Engel referenced centers around possible misuse of a political appointee at the State Department to perform personal tasks for Pompeo and his wife, according to a Democratic congressional aide with knowledge of the investigation.
A source close to Linick previously told CNN the allegation raised by the Democratic aide had previously been brought to Linick’s office but was not aware of an official investigation being opened into the matter.
CNN reported in July that Democrats on a key House congressional committee were investigating allegations from a whistleblower within the State Department about Pompeo’s use of taxpayer-funded Diplomatic Security to carry out tasks for his family – prompting agents to lament they are at times viewed as “UberEats with guns.”