The US secretary of state has confirmed he asked the president to sack Inspector General Steve Linick, but denied it was in retaliation for reported probes into arms sales to the Saudis and the use of an aide for personal errands.

“The president has the unilateral right to choose who he wants to be his inspector general at every agency in the federal government,” Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday at the State Department.

They are presidentially confirmed positions, and those persons just like all of us serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States. In this case, I recommended to the president that Steve Linick be terminated. I frankly should have done it some time ago.

When asked why exactly he pushed for Linick’s termination, Pompeo refused to elaborate, saying he would share such insights only “with the appropriate people.” At the same time, he denied doing so in retaliation for probes that Linick had reportedly opened into his activities, branding such claims “patently false.”

“I’ve seen the various stories that someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner. I mean, it’s all just crazy, it’s all crazy stuff,” he said.

The secretary of state also unexpectedly lashed out at Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – even though the reporters did not mention the official – before abruptly ending the briefing.

“You see these stories that have been leaked to you all, right? To the press. This is all coming through the office of Senator Menendez,” Pompeo claimed, insisting he was not getting his “ethics guidance from a man who was criminally prosecuted.” Menendez was indeed prosecuted on corruption charges back in 2015, though the case against him was dropped in 2018.

US President Donald Trump fired the inspector general on Friday, and was the first to bring up Pompeo’s role in the sacking. The move prompted an outcry from the Democrats – Linick was an Obama-era appointee – and a series of media reports on why Pompeo might have wanted to get rid of the IG.

According to US media reports, Linick had been conducting several investigations into Pompeo, including into his controversial decision to fast-track an $8 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia last year. The secretary of state reportedly refused to meet the IG in person, submitting his testimony in written form instead.

In addition, Linick has been reportedly investigating one of the Pompeo’s senior aides. The aide was allegedly more focused on carrying out Pompeo’s personal errands, such as walking his dog or making private dinner reservations, instead of conducting government business. 

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