Fired U.S. State Department watchdog tells lawmakers he was impartial

FILE PHOTO: U.S. State Department Inspector General Steve Linick departs after briefing House and Senate Intelligence committees at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A State Department inspector general abruptly fired by U.S. President Donald Trump last month defended his record to lawmakers on Wednesday, saying he had served in his oversight role without regard to politics.

Trump fired Steve Linick as State Department Inspector General on May 15, making him the fourth government watchdog dismissed by the Republican president in recent months.

Inspectors general are charged with preventing fraud and abuse at government agencies. The dismissals prompted concern from lawmakers, Democrats and some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, over whether inspectors general would be able to do their work.

“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,” Linick said in a prepared statement obtained by Reuters.

Linick’s dismissal prompted Democrats to launch an investigation, including Wednesday’s interview by members of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees and Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The interview was conducted remotely and lasted about seven hours. While it took place behind closed doors, the committees have promised to release a transcript.

Linick’s statement did not address reasons for his dismissal. Defending his seven-year record at State, he noted his office issued nearly 700 reports and identified savings for taxpayers of close to $2 billion.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he asked Trump to fire Linick, although he did not provide a reason for the request.

Members of Congress have said Linick was investigating Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency last year in order to sell arms to Saudi Arabia despite congressional objections, as well as allegations Pompeo used a taxpayer-funded employee for personal errands.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Berkrot