Trump fires Steve Linick, Obama appointee who briefed Congress on Biden-Ukraine ties

President Trump on Friday night fired the State Department’s inspector general, saying in a letter to Congress that he no longer had confidence in the Obama administration appointee.

The president’s letter did not mention Steve Linick by name but said his removal would take effect in 30 days, The Associated Press reported.

Linick, a former assistant U.S. attorney in California and Virginia who has held the IG position since 2013, had overseen reports that were highly critical of the State Department's management policies since Trump took office.

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His office had also criticized several Trump appointees for their treatment of career staff for allegedly being insufficiently supportive of Trump and his policies, the AP reported.

Last October, Fox News reported Linick had hosted a closed-door briefing on Ukraine for aides from several congressional committees. The briefing examined communications between Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and fired Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin and current Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. Linick also shared news clips and information regarding Ukrainian energy company Burisma, Fox reported.

The conversations between Giuliani and the Ukrainians were in reference to reports that former Vice President Joe Biden had sought to have Shokin fired amid an investigation into Burisma, whose board members included Hunter Biden, son of the former vice president.

President Trump’s July 2019 request that Ukraine’s president investigate the Biden matter led the House to impeach the president last December on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate acquitted Trump in February.

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 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 retaliation.”

Engel offered no details of the alleged investigation into Pompeo, although two congressional aides told the Associated Press the investigation involved allegations that Pompeo may have improperly treated staff.

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Linick’s removal continues a series of changes among the government’s inspectors general.

In April, Trump 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. That panel is charged with overseeing the allocation of more than $2 trillion in coronavirus relief funding.

During a White House briefing on the cornavirus, 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.

When Linick departs he will replaced by Stephen Akard, a former career foreign service officer with close ties to Vice President Mike Pence, a Trump administration official told the AP. 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 experienced enough.

Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, objected to the president’s move.

“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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

Pelosi claimed Linick was being “punished for honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, suggesting Linick was fired in part in retaliation for opening an unspecified investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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“This firing is the outrageous act of a president trying to protect one of his most loyal supporters, the secretary of state, from accountability,” Engel 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 retaliation.”

Engel offered no details of the alleged investigation into Pompeo, but Linick's office had issued several reports critical of the department’s handling of personnel matters, including accusing some of Trump’s appointees of retaliating against career officials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.