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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed he asked President Trump to fire State Inspector General Steve Linick, accusing him of "undermining" his department's mission, but denied knowing that Linick was probing Pompeo's potential misuse of office funds for personal errands.
Linick was removed from his post on Friday in the midst of investigating the State Department's $7 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia despite congressional objections.
The former IG was also probing whether Pompeo misused department funds for personal errands such as walking his dog, making dinner reservations and picking up his dry cleaning.
“It is not possible that this decision, or my recommendation rather, to the president rather, was based on any effort to retaliate for any investigation that was going on or is currently going on,” Pompeo said in a phone interview with the Washington Post on Monday. “Because I simply don’t know. I’m not briefed on it. I usually see these investigations in final draft form 24 hours, 48 hours before the IG is prepared to release them.
“So it’s simply not possible for this to be an act of retaliation. End of story," he said, refusing to comment on whether or not he used government employees to run his errands.
“I’m not going to answer the host of unsubstantiated allegations about any of that,” he said.
Still, Pompeo did not delve into Linick's shortcomings that made up the grounds for his dismissal.
A bipartisan group of congressional members, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote a letter to Trump on Monday urging the administration to provide a more fulsome account of what led to Linick's ousting.
“I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department, very consistent with what the statute says he’s supposed to be doing,” Pomepo said. “The kinds of activities he’s supposed to undertake to make us better, to improve us.
“I actually know how that works,” he added. “I had an IG at the CIA, not the IG that I had chosen but an IG that was there before me. He did fantastic work. He made us better. Linick wasn’t that.”
During Linick's first five years as a federal watchdog for the State Department, his office issued more than 600 reports in which they identified $1.7 billion in potential savings, according to his testimony before the House Appropriations Committee last year.
“The president obviously has the right to have an inspector general,” the secretary of state said. “Just like every presidentially confirmed position, I can terminate them. They serve at his pleasure for any reason or no reason.”
The Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 requires a high bar for removing an IG and stipulates the president notify and explain to Congress the decision 30 days before their removal from office.
Grassley's letter to Trump expressed doubts that the president's reasoning meets the standard.