Five of the nation’s top government watchdogs have been stripped of their positions by President Donald Trump in recent weeks, prompting an outcry from critics who say the president is silencing those with investigatory powers over his administration.
“They all shared one thing in common: They had the audacity to do their jobs and speak the truth. They had the audacity to try and drain the swamp,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said this week, referring to Trump’s 2016 campaign “swamp” slogan about rooting out corruption in the government.
But their ouster didn’t trouble most Senate Republicans, who maintain that it is within Trump’s authority to remove inspectors general as he wishes.
“He gets to hire and fire under the Constitution all people under the executive branch,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday.
In a late Friday evening announcement, Trump notified Congress he was removing State Department Inspector General Steve Linick from his post and replacing him with Stephen Akard, a trusted ally of Vice President Mike Pence.
The move follows similar personnel changes at government watchdog offices in charge of the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Transportation, and the intelligence community.
Linick was reportedly investigating why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fast-tracked more than $8 billion in weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies, as well as whether Pompeo made a staffer run personal errands for him. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday that Trump’s firing of Linick “could be unlawful” if it was intended to retaliate against one of his investigations.
“I don’t know him at all. I never even heard of him,” Trump said of Linick on Monday at an event at the White House, adding that Pompeo should have fired Linick a long time ago since “he’s an Obama appointment, and he had some difficulty.”
Linick’s ouster prompted a...