• Reports indicate Linick was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's alleged use of a State Department staffer to do errands for him and his wife
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says President Trump needs to provide better reasons than he has so far for firing an inspector general
  • Trump has dismissed five inspector generals or acting inspector general in recent weeks

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel on Monday opened an investigation of the firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was investigating President Trump’s emergency shipment of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Engel, D-N.Y., sent a letter to the White House questioning Linick’s firing late Friday, one of a series of moves gutting oversight of administration actions.

Linick, who played a minor roll in the impeachment inquiry, was fired late Friday. In a letter, Trump said only that he no longer had full confidence in him. Linick had been with he State Department since 2013. Before that he was in the Bush Justice Department.

CNN reported an ally of Vice President Mike Pence, Stephen Akard, will succeed Linick.

“Reports indicate that Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo personally made the recommendation to fire Mr. Linick, and it is our understanding that he did so because the inspector general had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Secretary Pompeo himself,” Engel wrote, referring to a report Pompeo allegedly used State Department personnel to perform personal tasks for him and his wife.

“Such an action, transparently designed to protect Secretary Pompeo from personal accountability, would undermine the foundation of our democratic institutions and may be an illegal act of retaliation.”

The letter asks the administration to preserve all records related to the firing.

In a Facebook post, Engel said he has learned another reason behind Linick’s firing was the inspector general’s investigation “at my request – [of] Trump’s phony emergency declaration so he could send Saudi Arabia weapons. We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Linick pushed out.”

Trump said Monday that Pompeo asked him to fire Linick and he was "happy to do it."

Trump issued an emergency declaration last May, authorizing the sale of as much as $8 billion in weaponry to the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan to “deter Iranian aggression.” Congress had delayed the sale in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Kashaoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Linick’s ouster was one of two such firings on Friday – the other was an acting inspector general who had a role on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. Trump also fired the intelligence community inspector general who handled the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment and the Defense Department inspector general Democrats wanted to oversee distribution of funds approved for coronavirus economic mitigation.

The Health and Human Services inspector general was fired after signing off on a report describing the obstacles faced by medical personnel dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The dismissals have raised eyebrows among Republicans. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who co-chairs the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, said Congress needs a better explanation.

“Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG’s removal. A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress,” he said Saturday.

So far, Trump has justified the firings only by saying it’s within his power to do so. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the firings amount to a “dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people.”