Key GOP senator asks Trump for 'detailed reasoning' for State Department IG's removal
By FELICIA SONMEZ | The Washington Post | Published: May 18, 2020
WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Monday called on President Donald Trump to detail the reasons behind his removal of Steve Linick from his post as the State Department's inspector general while most Republicans remained silent about the firing.
The letter from Grassley came amid criticism from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who accused the Iowa Republican and other GOP senators of staying quiet out of fear of Trump.
"Where are my Republican colleagues in the Senate?" Schumer said on the Senate floor. "My friends on the other side, especially the senior senator from Iowa, have long defended and even sought to pass legislation to further empower inspectors general."
"What are my Republican colleagues going to do about it?" he added. "Nothing, it seems. Nothing. They are so afraid of President Trump they . . . cling, almost, to his ankles."
Trump abruptly dismissed Linick late Friday night and replaced him with Stephen Akard, a trusted ally of Vice President Mike Pence and the diplomat who directs the Office of Foreign Missions. A congressional official familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Sunday that Linick had been investigating allegations that a staffer for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was performing domestic errands and chores such as handling dry cleaning, walking the family dog and making restaurant reservations. Democrats are investigating Linick's ouster.
Grassley, a longtime champion of the independence of inspectors general, initially issued a tepid response to Linick's firing, saying in a statement Saturday that Trump should further justify his decision beyond citing "a general lack of confidence."
In his letter to Trump on Monday, Grassley went further, arguing that the president's assertion that he lost confidence in Linick "is not sufficient" to fulfill the requirements of the 2008 Inspector General Reform Act.
Grassley also noted that he and other senators "still have received no official response" to their concerns about the president's recent firing of the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson.
"Inspectors General help ensure transparency and accountability, both of which are critical for taxpayers to have confidence in their government," Grassley said in the letter. "They should be free from partisan political interference, from either the Executive or Legislative branch."
He called on Trump to provide a "detailed reasoning" for Linick's removal by June 1 and a written response to his and other senators' concerns about Atkinson "as soon as possible."
"I want to work with you to ensure that the enemy here is wasteful government spending, not the government watchdogs charged with protecting the taxpayer," Grassley said.
The Washington Post's Philip Rucker contributed to this report.