Fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick defended his work as “impartial” and “without regard to politics,” during closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
President Trump fired Linick from his post as State Department watchdog on the recommendation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Linick, at the time of his firing, had been investigating the State Department’s $7 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, despite congressional objections. Linick also was probing whether Pompeo misused department funds for personal errands such as walking his dog, making dinner reservations and picking up his dry cleaning.
In his opening statement, obtained by Fox News, Linick, who is testifying behind closed doors before congressional investigators, maintained that “every minute” of his work as inspector general “has been devoted to promoting the efficiency and effectiveness” of the agency and ensuring that taxpayer funds are protected against waste, fraud and abuse.
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“In carrying out my work, I have always taken the facts and evidence wherever they lead and have been faithfully committed to conducting independent and impartial oversight, as required by law,” he said in prepared remarks.
Linick said during his time as inspector general for the State Department, where he served for seven years, his team issued nearly 700 reports and “thousands of recommendations to strengthen the Department’s operations” and to “protect the lives of people who work in or visit our posts and embassies abroad.”
“We investigated numerous cases of alleged wrongdoing, resulting in a range of outcomes dictated only by the facts—from administrative actions to exonerations to criminal convictions,” he said. “Our independent oversight of the Department has been the key to our success and has helped improve the Department’s programs in a transparent way.”
In a letter to Congress upon the IG’s firing, Trump wrote that he no longer had confidence in Linick. Linick was appointed during the Obama administration and had overseen reports critical of the department’s policies since Trump took office.
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A State Department official told Fox News last month that Pompeo had recommended that Trump fire Linick.
“I regret that I didn’t recommend to the president earlier that he be terminated,” Pompeo told Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” last month.
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“He was acting in a way that was deeply inconsistent with what the State Department was trying to do,” Pompeo said. “His office was leaking information, we tried to get him to be part of a team that was going to help protect his own officers from COVID-19. He refused to be an active participant. He was investigating policies he simply didn’t like. That’s not the role of an inspector general.”
Linick’s removal continued a series of changes among the government’s inspectors general. The most notable was Trump’s April firing of Inspector General for the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson, who played a role in handling the whistleblower complaint that led to the Ukraine probe — and Trump’s subsequent impeachment.
Fox News’ Rich Edson and Mike Arroyo contributed to this report.