- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2020

The recent firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick may be linked to an investigation into President Trump’s emergency declaration to push a controversial weapons deal with Saudi Arabia last year, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Monday.

Mr. Trump on Friday evening announced the firing of Mr. Linick, marking the latest of several federal officials tasked with conducting oversight on various government agencies to be pushed out by the president in recent weeks. The moves have prompted concerns from Democrats that he’s attempting to dodge accountability.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel and Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have launched a formal investigation into the Linick firing.

Mr. Engel, New York Democrat, said Mr. Linick’s office had opened an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the latest firing was a move to protect Mr. Pompeo.

In a statement Monday, Mr. Engel said Mr. Linick was looking into the president’s emergency declaration to clear a path for the sale of billions of dollars of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates without approval from Congress — an inquiry that could have led to Mr. Linick’s firing.

“I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick’s firing,” Mr. Engel tweeted. “His office was investigating — at my request — Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia.”

Republicans and Democrats in both chambers on Capitol Hill last summer issued a strong rebuke of Mr. Trump’s national security emergency declaration in an effort to push the sales through.

Citing heightened threats from Iran, the White House last May invoked provisions in the Arms Export Control Act that allow the president to waive congressional review of foreign arms sales.

The administration at the time said that funneling arms to regional allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was vital to keeping Iran and its proxies in check, while lawmakers argued that the multi-billion dollar deals require congressional approval.

“We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that [Secretary] Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed,” Mr. Engel continued.

Earlier Monday, he told The Washington Post that the “administration should comply with the probe I launched with Senator Menendez and turn over all the records requested from the Department by Friday.”

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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