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Watchdog fired at State was checking Pompeo aide

FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2019, file photo State Department Inspector General Steve Linick leaves a meeting in a secure area at the Capitol in Washington. A senior department official said President Donald Trump removed Linick from his job as State Department’s inspector general on Friday, May 15, 2020, but gave no reason for his ouster. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) ORG XMIT: WX114 (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2019, file photo State Department Inspector General Steve Linick leaves a meeting in a secure area at the Capitol in Washington. A senior department official said President Donald Trump removed Linick from his job as State Department’s inspector general on Friday, May 15, 2020, but gave no reason for his ouster. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) ORG XMIT: WX114 (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
By Mike Debonis and John Hudson Washington Post

WASHINGTON – The State Department inspector general fired by President Donald Trump was looking into allegations that a staffer for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was performing domestic errands and chores such as handling dry cleaning, walking the family dog and making restaurant reservations, said a congressional official familiar with the matter.

Steve Linick, the quasi-independent watchdog whose job it is to expose waste and malfeasance within the agency, investigated a number of issues at the State Department that agitated senior Trump administration officials, but it remains unclear what specifically triggered his ouster Friday night.

The congressional official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive, said the State Department staffer was a political appointee and that at least one congressional committee learned of the allegations around the time of Linick’s firing.

Congressional Democrats are investigating whether Linick’s firing was an effort to shut down the investigation, the official said.

NBC News first reported Sunday night that Linick was investigating allegations that Pompeo used staffers for personal chores and errands.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House said Trump’s late-night ouster of Linick came at the recommendation of Pompeo, a decision that has prompted criticisms from Democrats and some Republicans as a threat to oversight.

Inspectors general serve as internal government watchdogs conducting oversight of federal agencies. They are political appointees, but their independence is supposed to be protected. Linick’s firing amounted to the fourth such ouster in recent weeks.

Trump replaced Linick with Stephen Akard, a trusted ally of Vice President Mike Pence and the official in charge of the Office of Foreign Missions.

Trump wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Friday that, “It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

On Saturday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, launched a joint investigation into Linick’s firing.

“We unalterably oppose the politically-motivated firing of inspectors general and the President’s gutting of these critical positions,” Engel and Menendez wrote in a letter to the White House demanding that all records related to Linick’s firing be preserved and handed over to their committees.

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