Senior Republicans joined Democrats in criticising Donald Trump’s decision to fire an inspector-general, the latest sacking of a government watchdog who had been critical of his administration.
Mr Trump notified Congress late on Friday that he was firing Steve Linick, inspector-general of the US Department of State, saying he no longer had “the fullest confidence” in the senior civil servant.
Top Democrats swiftly launched an investigation into the matter, citing a pattern of politically motivated dismissals of oversight officials.
Some Republicans also attacked Mr Linick’s dismissal, which the White House said was recommended by Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, and agreed to by Mr Trump. Democrats allege Mr Linick was investigating Mr Pompeo when he was sacked.
Mitt Romney, the Republican senator from Utah, said Mr Trump’s firings of multiple inspectors-general were “unprecedented” and “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,” he added.
Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate finance committee, said inspectors-general were “crucial in correcting government failures and promoting the accountability that the American people deserve”.
“As I’ve said before, Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG’s removal,” he added. “A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress.”
Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine who is seeking re-election this year, described herself as a “strong advocate for the inspectors-general”, and said Mr Trump had not provided adequate justification for Mr Linick’s firing, as required by law.
Last month, Mr Trump fired Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector-general, who had a key role in the president’s impeachment proceedings last year. Mr Atkinson told lawmakers about a whistleblower complaint regarding the president’s dealings with Ukraine, which sparked the impeachment probe.
The president has also removed other officials involved in his impeachment, including Alexander Vindman, a former National Security Council official, and Gordon Sondland, the former US ambassador to the EU.
Democrats lambasted Mr Trump’s decision to fire Mr Linick, with Eliot Engel, the Democratic chair of the House foreign affairs committee, and Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, launching a probe into the matter.
The lawmakers claim Mr Linick, who had been critical of the Trump administration in the past, had opened an investigation into Mr Pompeo, who also came under sharp scrutiny during the president’s impeachment trial.
The Democrats solicited documents from the White House, state department and inspector-general’s office on Saturday, saying: “President Trump’s unprecedented removal of inspector-general Linick is only his latest sacking of an inspector-general, our government’s key independent watchdogs, from a federal agency. We unalterably oppose the politically motivated firing of inspectors-general and the president’s gutting of these critical positions.”