Democrats start probe into Trump's sacking of man investigating Pompeo

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON: Congressional Democrats have launched a probe into what they believe is President Donald Trump's "politically-motivated" dismissal of a government watchdog believed to have been investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The announcement came after Mr Trump told House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday that he planned to dismiss State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

It was Mr Trump's third abrupt dismissal of an official tasked with monitoring governmental misconduct and abuse since last month, and drew criticism even from members of his own party.

"The firings of multiple Inspectors General is unprecedented; doing so without good cause chills the independence essential to their purpose," tweeted Republican Mitt Romney.

"It is a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of power," Mr Romney continued.

Two senior Democrats - Senator Bob Menendez and congressman Eliot Engel - said in a statement they "unalterably oppose the politically-motivated firing".

The lawmakers said Mr Linick had apparently "opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Secretary Pompeo himself," and said the firing was "transparently designed to protect Secretary Pompeo from personal accountability... and may be an illegal act of retaliation".

A Democratic congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr Linick was probing complaints that Mr Pompeo inappropriately used a political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife Susan.

CNN, citing a senior State Department official, reported that Mr Pompeo himself had recommended the firing and hand-picked Mr Stephen Akard, a former aide to Vice-President Mike Pence, to succeed Mr Linick.

By law, the administration must give Congress 30 days' notice of its plans to terminate an inspector general, in theory giving lawmakers time to study the move - and protest if warranted.

But previous such firings have gone through unimpeded, and those dismissed have been replaced by political allies of the Republican president. - AFP