The State Department’s Inspector General, Steve Linick, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, was fired Friday night.
Ambassador Steven Akard, a former career foreign service officer, will replace him, according to Politico.
As is required by law, President Donald Trump notified House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the move, which will take effect in 30 days, on Friday night in a letter:
Trump has fired the State Department inspector general in his latest effort targeting key watchdogs across the government. According to this letter he sent to Pelosi, Trump says he “no longer” has the “fullest confidence” in the State inspector general. Effective in 30 days. pic.twitter.com/9U4Q3HXd9W
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 16, 2020
Top House Democrats, like House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), were out fairly quickly after the news suggesting that this move was unjustified:
!!! Now Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel says the State Inspector General was fired after opening an investigation into Secretary Pompeo
“Mr. Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation” pic.twitter.com/FfxVQ25lr7
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) May 16, 2020
But Linick had a troubled history, a source with knowledge of the matter told Breitbart News. “He was under investigation previously by the Department of Defense for mishandling sensitive material,” according to the source.
Linick gained brief notoriety during the impeachment push by House Democrats against Trump last year when he demanded a congressional audience for a briefing on an “urgent matter” he claimed was related to the impeachment push. What he turned up with were documents from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani containing a series of unproven conspiracy claims about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
But Linick’s briefing on the “urgent matter” did not impress lawmakers, even Democrats, who thought it was unserious. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), one of the lead impeachment investigators for the Democrats who met with Linick for the briefing, dismissed his presentation as a “completely irrelevant distraction.”
“It’s essentially a packet of propaganda and disinformation spreading conspiracy theories,” Raskin said of what Linick produced, according to CNN.
Linick’s ouster also comes after a history of intimidating whistleblowers himself.
Matt Stoller, a financial newsletter author, noted that Linick targeted a whistleblower he knew during the financial crisis:
State Department Inspector General Steve Linick during the financial crisis targeted a whistleblower friend of mine, a whistleblower who is one of the most honorable men I know. From what I understand Linick is unprofessional, blows with the wind, and is politically vindictive.
— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) October 2, 2019
Linick’s ouster comes as several other inspectors general across the administration who were appointed during Obama’s administration and have been targeting Trump have been ousted.