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President Trump’s top health advisers attended a White House event with protective masks, though the president himself did not wear a face covering.

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration fired the State Department’s watchdog late Friday evening, ousting a career investigator who had uncovered alleged political bias at the agency. 

The decision — made quietly and without explanation — was the latest in a series of purges the White House has undertaken in recent months to remove government overseers who are charged with reporting on government malfeasance and corruption.

In Friday’s move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired the agency’s inspector general, Steve Linick, who was appointed in 2013 during the Obama administration after serving other senior roles in the U.S. government. 

The State Department announced that Stephen J. Akard, a one-time aide to then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, would replace Linick as the agency’s inspector general. 

Akard has served in other State Department roles, including as a political officer at the U.S. embassy in Brussels. He worked as an economic adviser for Pence, when the now-vice president was Indiana’s chief executive.

A State Department official declined to say why Linick was fired. But he documented alleged political retaliation within the State Department — highlighting instances where employees were labeled “disloyal” or “traitors” even though they were career diplomats who had served multiple administrations. 

Linick was also tangentially involved in the impeachment battle over President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. He brought a dossier of debunked allegations and political smears to Capitol Hill, telling House and Senate staffers that while he didn’t know its origins, he believed it might be relevant to the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

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The dossier created an initial stir but did not become a central part of the impeachment proceedings. 

Trump has targeted a number of inspector generals in recent months. In April, he fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, who played a role in bringing the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment to the attention of Congress.

Trump also recently removed Glenn Fine as acting inspector general at the Defense Department, a move that stripped him of his post as chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. 

Democrats slammed Trump’s removal of Linick on Friday – saying it was evidence the White House refuses to submit to legitimate oversight. 

“The President’s late-night, weekend firing of the State Department Inspector General has accelerated his dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, said in a statement. “Inspector General Linick was punished for honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security.”

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