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White House hits out at 'Deep State' conspiracy after Trump fires watchdog

Date of publication: 18 May, 2020

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The White House hit back at fierce criticism over the firing of the State Department's top watchdog, suggesting he was a disloyal member of a "Deep State" conspiracy.
The White House hit back Sunday at fierce criticism over the firing of the State Department's top watchdog, suggesting he was a disloyal member of a "Deep State" conspiracy out to get President Donald Trump.

Trump told the House of Representatives late Friday he planned to dismiss Steve Linick, the fourth inspector general to be ousted by the president in the last six weeks.

Democratic lawmakers said Linick had apparently opened an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, one of Trump's most trusted aides.

The president and his allies regularly rail against a "Deep State" of shadowy forces in an otherwise apolitical civil service they see as committed to undermining Trump. There is no evidence that such a movement exists.

Asked by ABC about the latest dismissal, White House trade advisor Peter Navarro criticized "a lot of people" in the bureaucracy who "think they got elected president and not Donald J Trump."

"And we've had tremendous problems with - some people call it the 'Deep State.' I think that's apt. So I don't mourn the loss of people when they leave this bureaucracy," Navarro said.

Read also: Gloves and masks litter Middle East amid virus panic

He added that officials leaving the administration could always be replaced by someone more "loyal."

"Not to the president necessarily, but to the Trump agenda. That's what's important," Navarro added.

Linick was Trump's fourth dismissal of an official tasked with monitoring government misconduct and abuse since April, and the move drew criticism even from within his own party.

Casualties of the purge include coronavirus response watchdog Glenn Fine and intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson, who was involved in the impeachment investigation of Trump.

Move 'could be unlawful'

The president has also ousted health and human services watchdog Christi Grimm, who reported on dire shortages in US hospitals fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

Navarro's comments were immediately countered by top Democrats, who have launched a probe into the late-night dismissal.

"The president has the right to fire any federal employee," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, told CBS.

"But the fact is, if it looks like it is in retaliation for something that the IG, the inspector general, is doing, that could be unlawful."

Democratic senator Bernie Sanders told ABC that Trump believes he is "above the law, he's above criticism."

"And he does not understand that, in the function of government, you have a Congress, you have inspector generals who say, by the way, 'Mr President, what you're doing is wrong, and it may be illegal.'"

By law, the administration must give Congress 30 days' notice of its plans to terminate an inspector general, in theory giving lawmakers time to study the move - and protest if warranted.

But previous such firings have gone through unimpeded, and those dismissed have been replaced by political allies of the Republican president.

Linick played a small role in Trump's impeachment probe last year, handing to Congress documents from the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani with unproven claims about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump removed as the US ambassador to Ukraine.

Trump repeated the claims to Ukraine's president and pressed him to dig up dirt, while freezing military aid to Kiev, which is battling Russian-backed separatists.

Since his impeachment acquittal earlier this year by the Republican-controlled Senate, Trump has fumed against a "Deep State" he sees as out to get him.

A Democratic congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Linick was probing complaints that Pompeo inappropriately used a political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife Susan.

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