Trump Fires The State Department’s Inspector General [Updated]

Trump-fires-State-Department-inspector-generalOn Friday night, President Donald Trump fired the State Department’s Inspector General Steve Linick in a troubling and potentially unlawful act.  We previously discussed the President’s firing of then-Inspector General for the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson for his role in the whistleblower complaint that prompted the Ukraine probe — a move that I criticized. He also fired the inspector general overseeing pandemic relief, Glenn Fine. The firing of Linick when his office was reportedly investigating the alleged misuse of public resources by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is arguably in violation of federal law and in my view worthy of investigation by both houses.  The Inspector General system plays a vital role in combatting corruption and abuse. The President’s actions against multiple inspectors general constitute one of the greatest challenges to that system since its founding.

Both the Democratic leaders in House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate  Committee on Foreign Relations have indicated in the letter to the White House that they intend to investigate the action.  The concern is magnified by reports that Pompeo requested the termination after Linick’s office began looking into the use of official travel and State Department personnel for personal tasks. Travel by Pompeo’s wife was reportedly part of the inquiry and the misuse of Diplomatic Security personnel, who protect US missions overseas as well as the secretary of state, had been assigned questionable tasks for the Pompeos such as picking up the family dog and takeout food.

The merits of the allegations are difficult to gauge. However, it is less likely that we will ever resolve the merits given the termination. Trump notified Congress in a letter that Linick was fired simply because he no longer had confidence in him.  Federal law however requires more than a post hoc notice.  The 2008 Inspector General Reform Act states:

(e) If an Inspector General is removed from office or is transferred to another position or location within a designated Federal entity, the head of the designated Federal entity shall communicate in writing the reasons for any such removal or transfer to both Houses of Congress, not later than 30 days before the removal or transfer. Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a personnel action otherwise authorized by law, other than transfer or removal. (emphasis added)

The termination of Linick appears to have violated this federal provision, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley, who says that the White House explanation is “not sufficient”.  The letter does state that the termination would occur 30 days from May 15th so the violation may be viewed as technical in not first informing Congress.  The White House may also argue that the notice provision only applies to confirmed not acting Inspectors General. However, there remains the question of a fourth IG being fired under controversial circumstances.

090612-Gerald-Walpin-vsmall-12p.grid-4x2Trump is not the first to circumvent the system. In 2009, President Obama placed Americorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin into administrative leave and announced his planned termination on the same “lack of confidence” rationale.  Notably, he was also fired after he investigated an ally of President Obama for misuse of federal funds.  The acting United States Attorney in Sacramental was critical of Walpin who had referred the matter for possible criminal charges.

Notably, the person who actually fired him was later House impeachment counsel Norm Eisen who was the Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform.  Walpin said “You can either resign, or I’ll tell you that we’ll have to terminate you.”

The Walpin case also however shows the difficulty in litigating these claims.  He filed a lawsuit contesting the basis for his removal. His lawsuit was eventually dismissed after the chairman of the Integrity Committee of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency simply claimed that an earlier response satisfied the statutory requirements.

Regardless of how one feels about President Trump, there should be unity on the question of the President following federal law and the need for an investigation.  Even Sen. Grassley (Iowa, R.) has raised an alarm over this presidential action.  Congress has ample oversight powers to demand answers from the White House, albeit on a belated basis.  The problem is that the Administration knows it can run out the clock on any fight over subpoenas until after the election.

If Linick was fired for investigating Pompeo, Congress needs to act to address and deter such abuse.  Alternatively, if the Administration had another reason for the termination, it will have to share it with the committees.  In any case, the sudden termination of Lipnick violates federal law and, if left unaddressed, undermines the entire system of IG offices across the government.

119 thoughts on “Trump Fires The State Department’s Inspector General [Updated]”

  1. “The things you think are precious, I can’t understand.”

    – Steely Dan, 1972
    _______________

    “Crazy Abe” Lincoln denied the not-proscribed and, therefore, fully constitutional right to secession to the CSA, started a war of Northern aggression without a declaration by Congress and in a sovereign foreign nation, illegally confiscated deeded and recorded private property, suspended Habeas Corpus in a condition, not of invasion or rebellion, but of licit secession, and his successors corruptly and improperly ratified and insidiously rammed through the “Reconstruction Amendments” under the duress of brutal, post-war military occupation.

    And it is proposed that the President of the United States and Chief Executive Officer of its Executive Branch cannot fire an incongruous, incompatible, ineffective and conflicted employee?

  2. I don’t understand. President Trump did inform congress about his intention to fire the IG in 30 days.
    It was because he mishandled confidential information, allegedly.
    Making that act a violation of law makes no sense, when the law was followed.

    1. $22 trillion spent on the Great Society and War on Poverty since the year of the final imposition of communism in America, 1965.

      Poverty won.

      Generational welfare, affirmative action privilege and countless other entitlements and benefits, not to mention orders of magnitude of “cultural appropriation,” do not constitute the “merit that matters” in a society of freedom and free enterprise.

      The author is an incorrigible, unabashed parasite and proud of it!

      Were it I, I would pay my bill before exploiting the merchandise.

    2. @efdouglass,

      a) Trump has already removed Linick, when he is supposed to give 30 days notice before removing the IG.
      b) Trump hasn’t yet provided the required information about why he’s firing Linick.

  3. This is the result of Democrats trying to criminalize everything a President does in order to remove a President they don’t like. It is a result of two failed coup attempts, first the Russia hoax (and now we know Crowdstrike’s President said he had no solid evidence it was Russia that hacked Hillary and the DNC), and then the Ukraine call nonsense. Both engineered by intel community people, cheered on by the media, and given comfort and aid by Adam Schiff.

    This firing of inspector generals would usually be something I would find scandal worthy. But since media outlets and the Democratic Party have decided outright coups in broad daylight based on lies are not only acceptable, but desireable to them, I really don’t care if Trump fires them all! Michael Atkinson was fired because he participated in one of those coups. He knew that the Ukraine call was not within his jurisdiction and that the whistleblower, his lawyer, and probably Adam Schiff engineered the whole thing.

    Once toast of the town, Horowitz, gave aid and comfort to a coup attempt by finding a way to say the Russia investigation was properly predicated and he could find no “documentary” bias. Words the press and James Comey could later use to claim they were vindicated. I don’t want to hear about the damning portions of the Horowitz report because they were unsuccessful in making news when the left has a blanket of lies ordinary citizens have accepted to the point they don’t even question them.

    So I don’t know about you but who exactly are the Inspector General’s working for? Not the American people because we are still finding documents that they nor Congress could find. We are just now finding out (what some of us pretty much knew already) that not a single person had any evidence of “collusion.” We just now were told about the Preistap notes before the Flynn interview and the FBI shutting down crossfire razor before the Flynn interview.

    Maybe the Inspector Generals aren’t doing their job and need to be fired. Maybe they have become as politicized as the Obama FBI, DOJ, and IRS have. We no longer actually have rights anymore which has been made apparent through shelter in place orders where prisoners are let out because of coronavirus to make room for ordinary citizens for the crime of going to work. So maybe we shouldn’t raise the war flag and play the world’s smallest violin for Inspector Generals who for the last 5 years haven’t helped us really deliver much justice upon those who attempted a coup or two, and one even may have participated in one.

    1. The reasons will be moot. Johnathan touts law, but lawbreakers which were law enfircers took unlawful action against the President. This Inspector General at State was continuing a strategy to damage the President and the Secretary of State. Dirty trick Obama is the veiled author. Turley is a demicrat despite the lofty words and oponions. One more impeachment just to keep this pettiness about Mrs. Pompeo and the family dog available to smear.

  4. The only difference between Trump and Obama, when they both do the same thing? Obama gets applauded by the media, while Trump gets 50 lashes.

    If what Trump did is unlawful (technically), then where was the same loud outcry when Obama did things like this? I don’t recall anyone ever accusing Obama of breaking any law, even when he clearly did.

    I don’t have a problem with Prof. Turley pointing this out, since he points out faults on both sides of the spectrum. I do find it sickening, when the Media seem to have awakened as soon as Trump was elected by the American people.

  5. I don’t see the logic in this article. All the regulation does is state that both houses of Congress must be given the reasons for removal, period. Bear in mind that no Federal regulation trumps Article II of the Constitution, which places ALL executive power with the President of the United States, meaning he can do any damn thing he wants to in the Executive Branch and Congress can’t do a damn thing about it but holler and scream. The role of inspector generals, which comes from the military, is to insure that regulations and policies are followed. If a president loses confidence in that individual as they are carrying out their duties, he has every right to remove him from office and replace him or her with someone more capable – period.

    1. “the President of the United States … can do any damn thing he wants to in the Executive Branch and Congress can’t do a damn thing about it but holler and scream” is false.

      The President is not above the law. The Inspectors General positions were created by an act of Congress, and they have passed legislation that addresses when the President can and cannot fire them.

      The Founders did not want a monarch with unbridled power. That’s one of the reasons that they created a system of checks and balances.

      A relevant article:
      “How to Legally—and Illegally—Fire Inspectors General”
      https://www.lawfareblog.com/how-legally-and-illegally-fire-inspectors-general

      1. Commit– Tell Obama that Presidents are not above the law. Meanwhile, there is an argument that Congress may have gone above the law in trying to put a tight bridle on the executive powers given to the President in the Constitution. An inspector general’s boss is the President, not the Congress.

        1. Why should I tell Obama something that he already knows?

          Barr hasn’t indicted Obama for breaking any laws. Surely you’re not suggesting that Barr has evidence that Obama broke a law but is choosing not to indict him, right?

          As for Trump, deference to the OLC opinion prevents him from being indicted while in office. I wonder whether he’ll be indicted once out of office.

          In the meantime, I look forward to hearings on the multiple IGs who’ve been fired. As Sen. Romney (R-Utah) wrote yesterday, “The firings of multiple Inspectors General is unprecedented; doing so without good cause chills the independence essential to their purpose. It is a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of power.”

          1. Commit– “Surely you’re not suggesting that Barr has evidence that Obama broke a law but is choosing not to indict him, right?”

            I am suggesting that.

            1. Why are you suggesting that? Do you have evidence that Obama broke a law?

              If so, what law are you claiming Obama broke, and what’s your evidence?
              If not — if you don’t have evidence — then why are you suggesting that Barr does have evidence that Obama broke a law but Barr is choosing not to indict him?

                1. You still haven’t presented any evidence that Obama broke the law.

                  False insults don’t advance your argument.

                  1. You act like Seth. I am not going to waste time proving to you what is readily available. Did you know there is a Moon? No, I am not going to prove it to you, nor anything else.

                    1. Your claim, your burden of proof.

                      I don’t run away from it when someone quotes something I’ve written and asks for evidence. Either I provide evidence, or I honestly say that I don’t have it. I don’t try to shift the burden onto the other person (another common fallacy: iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#MisplacedBurden). And it’s ludicrous to suggest that this is analogous to asking for evidence that the moon exists. Moreover, if it were that kind of request, it would be astoundingly easy to provide evidence. So you’re essentially arguing that you believe the evidence is abundant but you can’t be bothered to present even a single piece of it.

                      Apparently you want to hold fast to what you believe instead of honestly dealing with whether you have good evidence for it. So be it.

                    2. Commit– What I am saying is that you are not worth the trouble. I don’t care what you believe.

                    3. OMG!

                      Is Mr. Shill’s novel nom de déguisement “CommitToHonestDiscussion?”

                      As one ponders, it must be.

                    4. Given others reading this board, Young has every incentive to provide the evidence to support his dubious claim. No one else has either, including the President who played the same “everyone already knows” game.

                      Lame and pathetic.

                    5. BB– Why try to prove anything to trolls? It is like probing the depths of a bottomless septic tank. You never find the bottom. You are a troll.

                    6. And this is one of the differences between us: I provide evidence when asked (and often without being asked) because I’m committed to honest evidence-based discussion. It doesn’t matter whether I care about the beliefs of the person asking. I do it because I believe society is better off when we all substantiate our claims when asked. Whereas you aren’t committed to honest evidence-based discussion, so you excuse your failure to provide evidence by making it personal.

            2. It is instructive that the Left troll these boards gratis. They continually mock that for which they do not pay a subscription. Entitlement is their defining quality.

              Why are they here? to lambast the owner’s many scholarly legal opinions while quoting lawfareblog of Wittes notoriety

              Not to disappoint they euphemistically don the profile name “committohonestbullsh!t”

              Mental gymnastics is fun. Seeing the contortions by the trolls on here is painful

              The very idea that government assertions are entitled to a presumption of truth even when they are shrouded in secrecy, subject to no accountability, and unaccompanied by proof, is the mindset of a servile government propagandist. It’s astonishing that, even after what happened in the run-up to the Iraq War – when media outlets placed themselves in the supine posture exemplified by Wittes – that anyone is willing to stand up in public and advocate this model of government-subservient “journalism”.

              Then again, there should be nothing surprising about any of this given that both Brookings and Wittes are classic examples of that sprawling strain of Washington think tank culture that exist for little reason other than to serve and justify government power. They are pure expressions of the courtier Beltway mentality that demands that everyone else be as reverent of royal court prerogatives as they are.
              Glenn Greenwald

              https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/15/drones-brookings-media

              1. Anon– Wonderful quote from Greenwald. I was surprised when I recently discovered that I trust Greenwald, Snowden and Assange far more than our government or our media and I used to think they were rascals.

                I am still a law and order person and believe it sustains civilization but I recall someone’s asking, “what happens when those who support law and order no longer trust our justice and judicial systems?” I don’t and I am not alone judging by reports. I guess we may find out the answer to that question if there is no accountability for the crimes of the last administration.

                1. Young says: ” I was surprised when I recently discovered that I trust Greenwald, Snowden and Assange far more than our government or our media and I used to think they were rascals.”

                  Glad you’ve come around. Unfortunately, though, some of the worst abuses still haven’t come to light.

          2. Mitt Romney the homophobe fired Ric Grenell from his presidential campaign when he found out Grenell is gay.

                  1. Paul– “Cockroaches are going to survive us all”

                    Apparently true; Romney still has a career/

              1. Paul– Obama treated him like rag doll that was a Doberman plaything but he had nothing but good to say about Obama.

                Trump gave him an endorsement for Senate and as soon as Romney was able he thrust a dagger into Trump’s back and has been twisting it at every opportunity since.

              2. Something. One thing the last five years have revealed is that vanity is a much stronger motivator among the Republican establishment than I would have guessed. See, for example, George Will, or about 1/2 the people who write for National Review or Hot Air.

              3. Donald Trump is for “Apprenticeship,” endeavor, proficiency, acumen, success, profit, prosperity, mentorship, etc. The presidency was made for irrepressible leaders like Donald Trump.

                Mitt Romney is for Mitt Romney.

              1. George – right now the Republicans have a bigger and more welcoming tent than the Democrats.

          3. The federal corporation called the United States of America is not a democracy. Mitt Romney has certain words about the President which signal he has an ulterior agenda from Ukranian conflucts of interest. The IG in question was up to damaging his superiors not serving the country..The fissure is driven from the falshoods of Nancy Pelosi’s corrupt House of Repartees.

          4. Things are coming to surface, like Yates’s comments. You seem content with giving the corrupt previous administration a pass while expecting a “by the book” accounting for the current one. They all should have been replaced. BTW, not one conservative gives a rats ass what Romney thinks.

      2. Commit– It’s hilarious to see a leftist appeal to the intentions of the Founders. The world is upside down.

        We already have a monarch with unbridled power but it is not where you are looking. Look to the Administrative State.

      3. If this is true , then how many AG;s slept from 2009-2017 and how many Whistleblowers went unprotected and were harassed and attacked by the previous DOJ ?

        1. Anonymous – it appears that Obama did not have an IG for the State Dept for 4 years. Makes you go Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    2. I wondered the same; how far can a statute go in limiting inherent executive power? Arguably this one goes too far.

  6. The Inspector General system plays a vital role in combatting corruption and abuse.

    That’s the idea. The problem is that if the staff shuffle back and forth between the IG office and other components of the bureaucracy (and I’ve seen in print contentions that they do), they’re likely to be concerned about the effect of their work on future promotions. Here’s a suggestion: nobody but the hourly employees gets to move around. You score a position in the IG office, you work there until you leave government employment for good. Make it the law that everyone assigned there to hold a salaried position must be a minimum of 55 years of age.

    Another problem we’ve encountered is that Democrats’ understanding of what constitutes ‘political neutrality’ is that the interests of the Democratic Party are served by some pompous fraud mouthing Mugwump catch phrases. The IG of the Directorate of National Intelligence was scamming around to advance Adam Schiff’s cruddly little schemes, so it’s not a stretch to imagine this fellow is a person of similar kidney.

    The Inspector-General in question was, prior to his appointment to this particular position, a Justice Department lifer. That’s a red flag right there.

    The President needs to explain this in detail. Optics are bad right now.

    1. Yeah, what a hack this guy Linick is. TIA nails it again.

      “On Wednesday, the State Department’s inspector general released a long-awaited report on the email practices of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, other former secretaries of state, and the State Department more broadly….

      Still, it’s significant that State’s inspector general, Steve Linick, has two broad sets of criticisms aimed at Clinton here: the first set related to records management policies, and the second set related to potential security risks…..

      However, Linick writes that government guidance is quite clear that use of personal email for work presents a security risk. And he writes that if Clinton had asked for department guidance on whether she could use her personal email in this way, she would have been rejected…..”

      https://www.vox.com/2016/5/25/11771850/hillary-clinton-emails-inspector-general-report

  7. I could swear I have read this headline before??? Oh yeah! Trump fires Comey in violation of law! I bet Trump had good reasons which will be revealed, and then ignored by the Main Stream Media.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Squeeky– well said and likely to be true. I would add that given the unpunished behavior of actors in the last administration I am not sure that there really is any federal law when it comes to the pols in Washington. Might as well say they violated laws in the Digest of Justinian for all anyone actually cares.

  8. The only crime is the delay in the promise-“Drain the Swamp.” To satisfy the law Trump should put every Obama Appointee on 30-day notice.

    1. So, PH has caught on that “draining the swamp” means eliminating oversight and installing Trump cronies and relatives.

  9. Good column JT, but a few notes. This the 4th IG Trump has fired in the last 2 months, a disturbing pattern from a guy who falsely brags about draining the swamp.

    Omitted is the fact that within 5 days of the announcement of Obama era IG Walperin’s removal for having lost the confidence of the president, a letter listing full details were sent to Congress by the WH. Among those were the alarm of the USA for Eastern California of Walperin’s personal behavior. As JT notes, his suit for reinstatement was dismissed.

  10. “In 2009, President Obama placed Americorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin into administrative leave and announced his planned termination on the same “lack of confidence” rationale. ”
    So, it would appear that the only ‘crime’ by the termination was a violation of the 30 day notice of intent? WHOA Nelly. Bar the doors, hide the women and children.

  11. “The termination of Linick appears to have violated this federal provision.”
    Oh, do you mean like all of the unmasking that has been done by the dumocrat deep staters?

  12. Who do these IG’s think the are, anyway? At least 1 of them broke laws and procedures in order to gain a foothold in the impeachment debacle. And PTurley is supporting him? What a fraud.

  13. The entire federal IG system needs reform. Currently, each federal agency has its own IG. The IG investigators and management often become cozy with the very management that they’re supposedly overseeing, either because of a close, 20 year working relationship, or because the IG employees are seeking advancement by transferring into the agency. I’ve seen a revolving door of IG investigators accepting a management position in the agency, and then transferring back and forth to the IG to further their careers. Thus they’re not going to objectively monitor the managers they’re seeking career opportunities with. In addition, some IG offices have excess staff with little to do, and others are stretched thin. A central IG organization would be able to deploy staff where needed, and would be independent of the close relationships that develop where you have a single IG office working with a single agency.

    1. Redundancy is helpful in quality control. You might have two layers. One a department specific IG, the other a set of audit and control inspectorates each with a specialized book – financial audits, general performance audits, engineering audits, &c.

    1. That confused me too. The statute reads that notice should be given BEFORE firing an IG. Both Obama and Trump fired IGs without giving the required notice. Technically that is a violation of the law.

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

      1. Squeeky – he was being investigated by another IG for mishandling classified information and may have decided to investigate Pompeo to keep his job.

  14. If President Trump had ‘accepted’ resignation from all of the IG’s during the transition or immediately after being sworn into office, what would PTurley have said then? Hmmmm
    Three years + into his term, I wonder if POTUS has yet regretted his decision to keep the players in place. AND I wonder who it was on the transition team who promoted and convinced Pres. Trump to not ask for all resignations? That really really was a DUMB idea?

    1. Unfortunately, Trump never dreamed that he would have to worry about people in “public service:” would do whatever they could to undermine an incoming President.

      America is founded on free elections and peaceful passing of power to the newly elected President.

      Without that, America would be no different than a third world country or a dictatorship.

      Only a cynic or a Washington insider, would have dreamed that the outgoing administration, would have done everything possible to undermine and torpedo this peaceful transition of power.

      There was so much interest in Watergate and investigating a break-in at a Democrat headquarters, during an election.

      What happened in the Trump/Russia episode by our own Justice and intelligence agencies, was far worse than Watergate ever was, but where are the media reporters who were so ready to investigate Nixon and Watergate, but are awol from this story that is a far more serious attack on our Constitutional republic.

  15. Trump and his accomplices will continue to push laws and norms as long as they are in power. They must be voted out in November or we are really in danger as a democracy

    1. Trump was elected because the established norms were already damaging our republic. A perfect example; CA governor Newsom is dishing out $75 million in stimulus funds to illegal immigrants. WTF!? And this is after cutting the public education budget by billions. So no, the danger now is not to our democracy, it’s to the power of the Democratic party.

    2. Funfact:

      You are a communist who believes in the principles of communism, distinctly not the American thesis of Freedom and Self-Reliance. The American Founders never intended for women to vote (presumably, their influence, if ever they found themselves in a calm and intelligible condition, was on the “family vote” of their husbands in the home). There is no such thing as a “healthy democracy” and, to be sure, the American Founders established a restricted-vote republic, distinctly not a one man, one vote democracy.

      American women would have done well to fulfill their duty to their country which is to make Americans – to have babies…lots and lots of babies, to “go forth and multiply” the population to grow and defend the nation. The American fertility rate is in a “death spiral,” the population is being imported and women are the elemental existential threat. Women don’t need to be men. Women don’t need to vote. Women need to make America. In fact. women are causing America to disappear. China has 1.4 billion Chinese and India has 1.3 billion Indians, as but two glaring examples of the deficiency and peril created by American women.

      Women and other communists are driving America into the inevitable “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

      America is the frog lulled into a delightful bath of cold water, only to soon find itself fully cooked.
      ___________________________________________________________________________

      “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the people discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the canidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy–to be followed by a dictatorship.”

      – Alexander Fraser Tytler
      ____________________

      “the people are nothing but a great beast…

      I have learned to hold popular opinion of no value.”

      – Alexander Hamilton

    3. We’re actually in danger from the terminally stupid. Look in the mirror, Martha.

  16. The report was several weeks ago that Trump was going to fire 7 IGs. This is just one of 7. The House just passed a 3 trillion spending bill without a committee hearing, however they are going to meet on this? Give me a break!

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