Donald Trump has fired a top state department official whose office has been critical of his administration.
In his role as inspector general, Steve Linick served as watchdog for the department – responsible for detecting and looking into cases of fraud, abuse and other mismanagement.
Mr Linick had been appointed in 2013, during Barack Obama‘s second term, and his office has made accusations of political bias in the state department since Mr Trump was inaugurated.
Congress was informed in a letter from the president on Friday that he no longer had full confidence in Mr Linick and that he would be removed from his post within 30 days.
The dismissal has prompted outcry from Democrats, with one senior congressman suggesting that the sacking was retaliation for an apparent investigation Mr Linick had opened into US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
New York’s Elliot Engel, who chairs the House foreign affairs committee, said: “This firing is the outrageous act of a president trying to protect one of his most loyal supporters, the secretary of state, from accountability.
“I have learned that the office of the inspector general had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo.
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“Mr Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation.”
The congressman offered no details of the alleged investigation, but Mr Linick’s office had issued several reports criticising the state department’s personnel matters.
Among them were accusations that some of Mr Trump’s appointees had retaliated against career officials for not being supportive enough of the president’s policies.
The sacking has also been criticised by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said Mr Linick had been “punished for honourably performing his duty to protect the constitution and our national security”.
According to the Associated Press, former career foreign service officer Stephen Akard will replace Mr Linick.
The new appointment reportedly has close ties to Vice President Mike Pence.
The sacking of Mr Linick is the latest in an increasingly long line of inspector generals losing their jobs, with Mr Trump having now fired three this year.
Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, was sacked in April for his role in the whistleblower complaint that led to the president being impeached.
Mr Trump has since fired the defence department’s acting inspector general Glenn Fine, which also saw him removed from his post as chairman of the pandemic response accountability committee.
That committee was set up to ensure government funding to respond to the coronavirus was not misspent.