Watchdog investigating Pompeo fired in continuing purge
President Trump last week fired a watchdog official investigating a series of accusations against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—the fifth inspector general fired or demoted by Trump since April. Steve Linick had been probing whether Pompeo ordered a federal employee to walk Pompeo’s dog, make restaurant reservations, and pick up dry cleaning and takeout. Linick had also nearly finished an investigation into Pompeo’s contentious decision last year to use an emergency declaration to push through billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Pompeo reportedly refused to be interviewed by Linick, then denied knowing the substance of any of Linick’s probes. Trump defended Pompeo, saying he might have been too busy to walk his dog and shouldn’t have to “wash dishes because maybe his wife isn’t there.”
The dismissal comes as Pompeo faces scrutiny for leveraging his office in the service of future political ambitions. He and his wife, Susan, have held 20-plus black-tie “Madison Dinners” at the State Department, hosting CEOs, GOP lawmakers, and media heavyweights. Susan Pompeo also joined her husband on taxpayer-funded trips abroad and flights to their home state of Kansas. Pompeo denied that Linick’s firing was retaliatory but said Linick was not making the department better and that he should have been dismissed “some time ago.” An Obama appointee, Linick has upset administrations of both parties, most prominently with a scathing report about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state.
What the columnists said
Linick is the latest casualty of Trump’s “slow-motion Friday-night massacre,” said Aaron Blake in WashingtonPost.com. Trump ousted inspectors general at Health and Human Services and Transportation—both departments involved in the pandemic response—plus the Defense Department watchdog tapped to oversee distribution of Congress’ $2 trillion relief package. He also fired the intelligence community inspector general who forwarded the whistleblower complaint that initiated Trump’s impeachment. “The war on inspectors general,” said David Graham in TheAtlantic.com, is the “final front in Trump’s war on any kind of check on the executive branch.”
It’s no mystery why Trump is cleaning house, said Andrew McCarthy in NationalReview.com. The president has been damaged by heinous allegations that have turned out to be either baseless or greatly exaggerated. Inspectors general contributed significantly to that, feeding half-baked accusations to Congress. “It would be better to reserve judgment” before accusing Trump of political mischief.
If Linick wasn’t fired to hide the “grime” in Pompeo’s State Department, then why don’t Pompeo’s explanations add up? asked Michelle Cottle in The New York Times. Pompeo is the latest in a long line of Trump officials who’ve used government resources to “make their lives easier or more glamorous.” Pompeo’s security agents believed that they were treated like “Uber Eats with guns.” As Trump sacks his watchdogs, his “vow to ‘drain the swamp’” sounds ever more ludicrous. ■