On Friday night, President Donald Trump quietly moved to fire yet another inspector general late Friday. This time, career U.S. Department of State official Steve Linick was abruptly ousted from his post. It’s the latest example of Trump’s hostility to oversight and investigation.
The move sparked widespread outrage from congressional leaders, journalists, and law experts, who argue that Trump is slowly moving the nation toward some form of autocracy.
“What checks and balances do we have left?” wondered journalist Andrew Kimmel. “The slow-moving coup continues to successfully—and quite easily—rid itself of any and all roadblocks.”
“If you went to bed early, you missed another dismissal of another independent government watchdog. This time, it’s State Department Inspector General Steve Linick,” CNN’s Brian Stelter tweeted.
Linick’s dismissal came shortly after reports surfaced that Linick was looking into possible misuse of political appointees for personal gain by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
As the Guardian reported:
“According to a Democratic congressional aide, just before his abrupt dismissal Linick had opened an investigation into allegations that Pompeo had been using a political appointee at the state department to run personal errands for him and his wife, Susan,” The Guardian reported.
National security and federal employment attorney Bradley P. Moss noted the historical nature of Trump’s long-running attacks on the various checks previously put in place to prevent against unbridled executive branch power and authority.
“Bit by bit, the president continues to dismantle the institutional and constitutional reforms we spent the last half-century implementing to reign in the imperial presidency,” he said according to Law&Crime. “This is not normal nor sustainable.”
“Trump is destroying our democracy,” said famed whistleblower attorney Mark Zaid via Twitter. “Intentionally. Methodically. This is nothing less than authoritarian overtures to increase his power. I can tell you of other countries who have done the same in history. It didn’t end well for them or their country. Pay attention America.”
House Intelligence Chair Rep. Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that the move indicates trump believes he and his administration are “above the law.”
“I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo,” said Engel. “Mr. Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called for the Senate to investigate the dismissal.
“If Inspector General Linick was fired because he was conducting an investigation of conduct by Secretary Pompeo, the Senate cannot let this stand,” Murphy tweeted. “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee must get to bottom of what happened here.”
The firing marks the third inspector general Trump has removed from office in the past two months.