U.S. House Panel Leader Links Trump's Firing of State Dept Watchdog to Saudi Arms Sale

Inspector General Steve Linick may have been fired because he was investigating the president's declaration of a national emergency to sell arms mostly to Saudi Arabia, Eliot Engel suggests

Reuters
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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump, at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump, at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019Credit: \ HANDOUT/ REUTERS
Reuters

The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said on Monday the State Department inspector general may have been fired because he was investigating President Donald Trump's declaration of an emergency to clear the way for military sales to Saudi Arabia last year.

The White House, State Department and Saudi embassy did not immediately respond to the statement by the chairman, Democratic Representative Eliot Engel.

Engel's statement was first reported by the Washington Post.

Trump announced the planned removal of Inspector General Steve Linick in a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi late on Friday night. He was the fourth government inspector general that the Republican president has ousted in recent weeks.

Engel and Senator Bob Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Republican-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced on Saturday they were launching an investigation of Linick's firing.

"I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick's firing. His office was investigating - at my request - Trump's phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia," Engel said in a statement.

"We don't have the full picture yet, but it's troubling that Secretary (Mike) Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed. The administration should comply with the probe I launched with Senator Menendez and turn over all the records requested from the Department by Friday," Engel said.

Trump replaced Linick with Stephen Akard, the official in charge of the Office of Foreign Missions who is considered a close ally of Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump infuriated many members of Congress last May, including some of his fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, by declaring a national emergency related to tensions with Iran in order to sidestep Congressional review of $8 billion in military sales, mostly to Saudi Arabia.

The House and Senate both passed resolutions to block the sales, but Trump vetoed them, and there was not enough support in the Republican-led Senate to override his veto.

Congressional aides had also said that Linick was investigating whether Pompeo misused a taxpayer-funded political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife.

U.S. law allows a president to remove inspector generals, who act as watchdogs to expose waste or improper activities within government agencies.

Explaining Linick's firing to Pelosi, Trump said only that he no longer had "fullest confidence" in Linick.

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