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Politics Senate Republicans demand answers from Trump on IG firing

03:30  19 may  2020
03:30  19 may  2020 Source:   thehill.com

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Republican Sen. Mitt Romney on Saturday denounced President Donald Trump 's firings of internal government oversight "The firings of multiple Inspectors General is unprecedented; doing so Romney is the only Senate Republican who voted to convict Trump of abuse of power earlier this year.

US President Donald Trump 's firing of the State Department's top internal watchdog "could be unlawful" if it The top Democrats on the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committee began a probe on After Mr Atkinson's firing , a bipartisan group of senators , including Republicans Charles

Senate Republicans are demanding a fuller explanation from President Trump about his firing of State Department inspector general Steve Linick, the fourth inspector general to be removed by the president in the past three months.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) walks to a GOP caucus meeting after President Donald Trump's impeachment trial ended for the day, at the U.S. Capitol on January 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. Today President Trump's legal defense team is expected to conclude their arguments today and begin answering written questions from Senators on Wednesday. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) © 2020 Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) walks to a GOP caucus meeting after President Donald Trump's impeachment trial ended for the day, at the U.S. Capitol on January 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. Today President Trump's legal defense team is expected to conclude their arguments today and begin answering written questions from Senators on Wednesday. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Republicans on Monday expressed concerns about the need to protect inspectors general, especially in the wake of Congress passing nearly 3 trillion of dollars' worth of coronavirus legislation in recent months.

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Lawmakers and political advisers reacted to President Trump 's latest contentious actions on May 17.

U.S. President Donald Trump 's firing of the State Department's top internal watchdog "could be unlawful" if it was intended to retaliate against one of FILE PHOTO: U.S. State Department Inspector General Steve Linick departs after briefing House and Senate Intelligence committees at the U.S

"I'm concerned that our inspectors general be allowed to do the job that they have been hired to do, whether it's Mr. Linick or others," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Trump is required as president to give an explanation to Congress as well as a 30-day advanced notice on any decision to remove a department watchdog, a point made by Democrats and Republicans on Monday. Several lawmakers said it's not enough for Trump to say he has lost confidence in Linick.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday sent a letter to Trump demanding an explanation for the firing of Linick, an Obama-era appointee, and other Republicans joined him in calling for more information.

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Grassley reminded Trump that the law requires detailed explanations for dismissing a departmental watchdog to "ensure that inspectors general are not removed for political reasons."

"Removal of IGs without explanation could create a chilling effect in the oversight community, and risks decreasing the quantity, quality, fidelity, and veracity of their reports," Grassley warned.

Linick was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's use of a staffer to run domestic errands, such as picking up dry-cleaning, and possibly other questionable uses of taxpayer funds, when he was fired. Trump may have violated the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 by failing to provide sufficient explanation to Congress for his decision.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday, Trump wrote that he "no longer" had "fullest confidence" in Linick.

But Grassley in his letter emphasized that "an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the IG Reform Act."

Trump's firing of State Department watchdog may be 'unlawful,' Pelosi says

  Trump's firing of State Department watchdog may be 'unlawful,' Pelosi says Trump's firing of the State Department's top internal watchdog "could be unlawful" if it was intended to retaliate against one of his investigations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday. © REUTERS/Erin Scott House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2020. Trump late Friday ousted Inspector General Steve Linick, the fourth inspector general he has fired since early April, following his February acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate in his impeachment trial.

Elie Honig writes that Donald Trump 's firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick could be a criminal obstruction of justice -- and that the Justice Congressional Democrats and at least one Republican (Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa) alike have declared that they will demand more answers

Nancy Pelosi says Donald Trump 's firing of State Department Inspector General 'could be unlawful' if it was The top Democrats on the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Saturday began a After Atkinson's firing , a bipartisan group of senators , including Republicans Charles Grassley

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on Monday said: "I want to hear the reasons, it's in the law."

Portman later emphasized to reporters that Trump must make sure he follows the 2008 IG act in firing inspectors general.

"One thing I think [that] must be done is we follow the law, which is 30-days notice and a rationale and that was put into the law," Portman said.

The president last month fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community, with little explanation. A letter sent by Grassley in early April asking for an explanation of Atkinson's termination has yet to receive a response although Grassley said Monday he expected to hear back this week.

Atkinson later said he was dismissed because he told Congress of a whistleblower complaint against Trump pertaining to his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Yolodymyr Zelensky that later became the basis for his impeachment in the House and trial in the Senate.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) on Monday said Senate Republicans would take a close look at Linick's dismissal to make sure it was adequately justified.

Some Republicans Object to Trump's Firing of State Department Watchdog

  Some Republicans Object to Trump's Firing of State Department Watchdog Some Republican lawmakers are raising objections to President Trump’s decision to fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, arguing that he didn’t give Congress a sufficient justification for the removal. The lawmakers pointed to a 2008 law that requires a president to detail the reasons for removing an inspector general.Get news and analysis on politics, policy, national security and more, delivered right to your inbox require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.

As Republicans rallied behind President Trump , Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, joined Democrats in voting to In a pair of votes whose outcome was never in doubt, the Senate fell well short of the two-thirds margin that would have been needed to remove the

© Win McNamee/Getty Images State Department Inspector General Steve A. Linick departs the Capitol on Oct. 2, 2019. President Trump accelerated his retaliatory purge of public servants by firing the State Department’s inspector general

"I want to hear what the explanation is," he said, noting that Trump submitted a letter to Pelosi last week. "I'm sure we'll have more conversations about it here in the next few days."

"Inspectors general play an important role in our government," Thune added. "It's his prerogative to hire people and evidently this was a recommendation from State, from Pompeo, but we deserve an explanation."

"These are important positions. They are watchdogs for these agencies and they have an important role to play and I think it's important for us to be part of the oversight process and I think we need and deserve a full explanation," he said.

"The relevant committees I suspect will probably want to drill down a little bit and figure out what's behind all this and get a fuller explanation."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch (R-Idaho) held back from criticizing the IG's firing but said he is in communication with the administration and expects to "continue to learn more."

"It is the president's prerogative and within his authority to make decisions regarding the adequacy of performance and continued employment of the inspector general," Risch wrote in an email to the Hill. "I have been in contact with the administration over this matter and expect to continue to learn more."

GOP mostly silent on Trump's removal of State Department's top watchdog

  GOP mostly silent on Trump's removal of State Department's top watchdog Senior Republicans on Capitol Hill have been mostly silent since President Donald Trump on Friday announced he would fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. © Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images The Capitol dome is seen early Wednesday morning before Amb. William Taylor And Deputy Assistant Secretary Of State George Kent testify at the first public impeachment hearing before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. GOP Sen.

Democrats are raising the alarm that Linick's firing occurred to obstruct at least two separate investigations involving the president and Pompeo.

One investigation Linick oversaw, and that Democrats have said was nearly completed, looked into whether Trump illegally issued an emergency declaration in May 2019 to move ahead on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia without congressional authorization.

"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," Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Monday.

"We don't have the full picture yet, but it's troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed."

Trump in May of last year issued an emergency declaration that bypassed congressional authorization to sell over $8 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, with Pompeo saying at the time the move was necessary to "deter Iranian aggression."

Congress had moved to block arm sales to Saudi Arabia in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and criticisms against the Saudi-led coalition war in Yemen after an airstrike near a school-bus killed dozens of children.

A second investigation launched by the IG that Democrats are probing is whether or not Pompeo misused a political appointee at the State Department to run errands for both the secretary and his wife.

Pompeo on Monday denied that he had any knowledge Linick had opened an investigation into the secretary's alleged misuse of a staffer, saying he made the recommendation for the president to fire the Inspector General for "undermining" the work of the agency, in an interview with The Washington Post.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Linick's firing and the allegations that Pompeo misused a State Department employee.

These included whether the Pompeo's and their adult son were using diplomatic security to run errands for the family, detailed in a whistleblower report revealed by CNN in July 2019, with agents complaining they are "UberEats with guns," for being called to run food deliveries.

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