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Democrats claim watchdog fired by Trump was probing Pompeo’s fast-tracking of $8 billion Saudi arms sale

FILE - In this April 29, 2020, file photo Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at the State Department in Washington. Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January, according to a 4-page, Department of Homeland Security report dated May 1 and obtained by The Associated Press. The revelation comes as the Trump administration has intensified its criticism of China, with Pompeo saying Sunday, May 3, that China has been responsible for the spread of disease in the past and must be held accountable for the outbreak of the current pandemic. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(CNN) — The State Department inspector general fired by President Donald Trump Friday, Steve Linick, had nearly completed an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to fast-track an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, according to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep. Eliot Engel.

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

The Saudi Arabia investigation was first reported by The Washington Post.

Linick was also investigating whether Pompeo made a staffer perform a variety of personal errands, including walking his dog, picking up dry cleaning and making a dinner reservation for him and his wife.

At this time, House Democrats say they do not yet know which investigation was the biggest factor behind the decision to fire Linick.

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“I wouldn’t assign percentages” a Democratic committee aide said.

“The administration should comply with the probe I launched with Senator Menendez and turn over all the records requested from the Department by Friday,” Engel added.

Last May, the Trump administration declared an emergency to bypass Congress and expedite billions of dollars in arms sales to various countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — citing the need to deter what it called “the malign influence” of Iran throughout the Middle East.

Trump’s latest late-night firing of an inspector general as the media’s attention was focused on the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 89,000 Americans, prompted immediate bipartisan criticism from lawmakers including Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, a longtime proponent of inspectors general.

“As I’ve said before, Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG’s removal. A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress,” Grassley said on Saturday, referring to the justification for Linick’s firing cited by Trump.

An aide to Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement Monday about Trump’s firing of the Linick. Most Republicans so far have been silent on the matter.

“The State Department Inspector General performs essential oversight of the Department, so it raises questions when one is removed. We are looking into the matter,” Leslie Shedd, a spokeswoman for McCaul, said.

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