U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked him to fire the State Department's inspector general – a top government watchdog - and defended his right to terminate him.
“I don’t know him at all, I never even heard of him, but I was asked to by the State Department, by Mike. I have the absolute right to as president terminate. I said, ‘Who appointed him?’ They said, ‘President Obama.’ I said, ‘Look, I’ll terminate him.’”
Inspector General Steve Linick - whose job was to expose waste or improper conduct within the State Department - was fired by Trump Friday.
He is the fourth IG to be axed in recent weeks.
Congressional aides had said Linick was investigating whether Pompeo misused a taxpayer-funded political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife.
[TRUMP]: "I don’t know anything about it. You mean he's under investigation because he had someone walk his dog? I don't know...."
Pompeo told The Washington Post that he had asked Trump to fire Linick, while declining to describe specific concerns.
Pompeo said no reason had to be given, a statement that contradicted members of Congress' interpretation of the inspector general law.
Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Monday said Linick may have been fired because he was investigating a controversial decision by Trump that cleared the way for military sales to Saudi Arabia.
Trump declared a national emergency last May that allowed for sales of weaponry to Saudi Arabia without any Congressional oversight.
That declaration infuriated members of Congress, which voted to block the sales. Trump vetoed their resolution.
The firing of Linick has been met with criticism from both sides of the political aisle, including from Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who over the weekend tweeted: “The firings of multiple Inspectors General is unprecedented; doing so without good cause chills the independence essential to their purpose. It is a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of power.”
Trump shot back at Romney in a tweet Monday calling him a “loser.”
Representative Engel and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez have announced they are launching an investigation into the firing of Linick.