The State Department internal watchdog who was fired by President Donald Trump had nearly completed an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s widely criticized decision to skirt Congress with an emergency declaration to approve billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia last year, NBC News reported Monday.
House Democrats have discovered that the fired IG, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, had mostly completed his investigation into the arms sales.
Congressional investigators believe that that investigation contributed to the president’s decision – on Pompeo’s recommendation – that Linick be removed from his post, two congressional officials told NBC.
NBC News reports:
The Trump administration in mid-2019 issued an emergency declaration to push through an $8 billion-plus arms deal with the Saudi kingdom and the United Arab Emirates without congressional approval. The Democrat-led House voted, mostly along party lines, to block the weapons sale. Trump vetoed the resolutions last July, and the GOP-held Senate failed in an attempt to override the veto.
Much of the opposition stemmed from the 2018 murder in a Saudi consulate in Turkey of Washington Post columnist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, as well as Saudi Arabia’s military endeavors in Yemen. Outlets reported in late 2018 that the CIA found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself had ordered the assassination of Khashoggi, citing people familiar with the matter. The crown prince has denied ordering the killing.
Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich monarchy is considered a crucial strategic partner and significant patron of U.S. defense companies. The Saudis are the top buyers of U.S.-made arms, a title that has safeguarded the kingdom from retaliatory sanctions over the killing of Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.
Trump fired Linick late Friday night and said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he had lost confidence in Linick, without providing further explanation.
A Democratic aide told NBC on Saturday that the IG’s removal might have been in response to an investigation into Pompeo’s “misuse of a political appointee at the Department to perform personal tasks for himself and Mrs. Pompeo.”
Those tasks included walking his dog, picking up his dry cleaning, among other personal tasks, according to NBC.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said Monday in a statement to CNBC: “I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick’s firing. His office was investigating—at my request—Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia.”
“We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed,” Engel said.