USA lawmaker: Fired watchdog probing Saudi arms sales

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Each major government agency has an inspector general, whom watchdogs regard as playing an essential role in combatting corruption.

Experts say the pattern threatens the independent oversight function that inspectors general provide, particularly if watchdogs feel pressure to do the president's political bidding or risk being fired for refusing.

The White House hit back Sunday at fierce criticism over the firing of the State Department's top watchdog, suggesting he was a disloyal member of a "Deep State" conspiracy out to get President Donald Trump.

Although it is speculated that Linick had issued several reports regarding the staff appointed by the Trump administration in the ministry, he has been removed from the post only.

Democrats in Congress immediately cried foul, with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee suggesting that Linick was sacked in part in retaliation for opening an unspecified investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

They also asked to see files for IG investigations "involving the Office of the Secretary that were open, pending, or incomplete at the time of Mr. Linick's firing".

Eliot Engel, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, later told CNN on Monday that "there may be another reason for Mr. Linick's firing".

She said that President Trump had not "provided the kind of justification for the removal of IG Linick required" by the law of the The Inspector General Reform Act. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in October called for a special counsel investigation of Pompeo's use of a State Department airplane and funds to make frequent visits to Kansas while he was reportedly mulling a Senate run.

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Trump replaced Linick with Stephen Akard, a trusted ally of Vice President Mike Pence and the official in charge of the Office of Foreign Missions.

In April, the president removed Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community.

Atkinson first alerted Congress to a whistleblower complaint that led to Trump's impeachment trial.

Walter Shaub, the former head of the US Office of Government Ethics, who exited after clashing with Mr Trump, said the 30-day notice gave lawmakers a window to act, if they wanted to, including calling Mr Pompeo to testify.

In May 2019, President Trump declared an emergency which allowed him to bypass Congress to send weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries.

"The administration should comply with the probe I launched with Senator Menendez and turn over all the records requested from the Department by Friday", Engel added.

He also notified Congress that he was firing the inspector general of the USA intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, who was involved in triggering the impeachment investigation.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California tweeted: "Another Inspector General fired by Trump in the dead of night".

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