During a press conference on Wednesday, Pompeo was asked about the move — which has led to an investigation by the Congressional Democrats — and he noted that Trump has the authority to fire inspector generals.
He added, “In this case, I recommended to the president that Steve Linick be terminated. Frankly, should have done it some time ago.”
Pompeo refused to elaborate on his comments to The Washington Post that Linick was “undermining” the mission of the State Department.
He said on Wednesday, “I don’t talk about personnel matters. I don’t leak to you all … we’ll share with the appropriate people the rational.”
Watch the video below:
.@SecPompeo: "I recommended to the president that Steve Linick be terminated. Frankly, should have done it some time ago…I don't talk about personnel matters. I don't leak to you all…there are claims that this was for retaliation…it's patently false…it's all crazy stuff." pic.twitter.com/jpphNyF2c7— CSPAN (@cspan) May 20, 2020
Pompeo’s comments come days after Trump told Congressional leaders that he would remove Linick from his position. In a letter to lawmakers, Trump cited a loss of “confidence” in Linick as his reason for removing him.
In the wake of Trump’s decision, it was reported that Linick was investigating whether Pompeo directed a staffer to run errands — such as walk his dog.
The discovery that Linick was investigating Pompeo led Democrats to raise concerns that his removal was retaliatory.
In an interview with CBS’ “Face The Nation,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “The president has the right to fire any federal employee, but the fact is if it looks like it’s in retaliation for something that the IG, the inspector general, is doing that could be unlawful.”
Pompeo has denied that he knew Linick was investigating. During his press conference, he said, “There are claims that this was for retaliation for some investigation that the inspector general’s office here was engaged in.”
“That’s patently false. I have no sense of what investigations were taking place inside the inspector general’s office. Couldn’t possibly have retaliated for all the things,” he said.
While Pompeo reiterated that he did not have information about the inspector general’s office, he noted that he did provide written answers to Linick regarding an unspecified investigation. However, he said he did not know the scope or nature of the investigation.
“It’s not possible for there to have been retaliation,” he added.
Democrats are not the only ones seeking more information on the decision to remove Linick. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Trump to request more information, “Congress’s intent is clear that an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the IG Reform Act.
He added, “Please provide a detailed reasoning for the removal of Inspector General Linick no later than June 1, 2020.”