- President Donald Trump distanced himself from his widely criticised decision to fire the State Department’s inspector general, saying that he didn’t know “anything” about the watchdog.
- Reports emerged on Monday that Steve Linick, the State Department’s newly dismissed watchdog, was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to expedite an arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
- Linick was also investigating allegations that Pompeo improperly used taxpayer funds by having government employees run personal errands, like walking his dog.
- Trump dismissed those accusations.
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President Donald Trump distanced himself from his widely criticised decision to fire the State Department’s inspector general, a move he said he made at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
This came as reports emerged that Steve Linick, the State Department’s newly dismissed watchdog, was investigating Pompeo’s decision to expedite an $US8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia and allegations that he used government employees to run personal errands.
Trump said Pompeo told him that Linick was treating him “unfairly,” but the president added that he didn’t know what specifically was unfair and knew little about Linick.
“I don’t know anything about him, other than the State Department, and Mike in particular – I guess they weren’t happy with the job he was doing or something, so because it’s my right to do it, I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it,” Trump told reporters on Monday about the firing. “I’ve gotten rid of a lot of inspector generals.”
Trump added that he’s urged his administration officials to get rid of inspector generals who, like Linick, were appointed by President Barack Obama.
Last year, the Trump administration fast-tracked an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan by declaring an emergency, citing the heightened tensions with Iran and circumventing congressional authority over arms sales. This came as Congress was poised to reject the deal in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel said on Monday that Linick was investigating this move and fired over it.
The president insisted that any lucrative arms deal should be fast-tracked and said he wasn’t aware of any human-rights concerns, despite the Saudi government’s well-documented use of US weapons in committing war crimes in Yemen, according to a UN panel.
“I think when someone pays us a fortune for arms, we should get the deal done,” Trump said.
Linick was also investigating whether Pompeo improperly used taxpayer funds by having government employees run his personal errands, including walking his dog and picking up his dry cleaning, CNN reported, citing a Democratic aide. House Democrats are looking into whether the investigations played a role in Linick’s ouster but have not concluded if one inquiry played a bigger factor than the other, CNN reported.
Trump dismissed the allegations and suggested Democrats and “the fake-news media” were making it an issue.
“I’d rather have him on the phone with some world leader than have him wash dishes because maybe his wife isn’t there, or his kids aren’t,” Trump said.
John Haltiwanger contributed to this report.
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