President Donald Trump on Friday removed a watchdog critical of personnel moves in the State Department.
Trump informed Congress of the move in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, in which he gave no specific reason for firing State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
Trump wrote he “no longer” had full confidence in the State Department's inspector general.
“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, 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," the letter said.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel, D-New York, said in a statement Friday that he learned Linick "had opened an investigation into Secretary [Mike] Pompeo."
A Democrat aide told NBC news the inspector general "was looking into the Secretary's misuse of a political appointee at the Department to perform personal tasks for himself and Mrs. Pompeo."
Pompeo is married to Susan Pompeo, who's been known to travel with the Secretary of State and was listed as "Special Assistant to the Secretary of State" at a security conference in Germany earlier this year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the removal of Linick as a wee-hours firing by Trump that appears to be retaliation for Linick's critical eye within the department.
"The President’s late-night, weekend firing of the State Department Inspector General has accelerated his dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people," Pelosi said in a statement.
Last year a report by Linick's office found there was evidence to support allegations that the termination of an employee in the Secretary of State's office was made "after significant discussion concerning the employee’s perceived political views" as well as the worker's "perceived national origin."
"Inspector General Linick was punished for honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security, as required by the law and by his oath," Pelosi said.
She said the role was important in performing audits, investigations and inspections.
Engel called the firing "outrageous."
“This firing is the outrageous act of a President trying to protect one of his most loyal supporters, the Secretary of State, from accountability," he said. "I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo. Mr. Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation."
Trump has fired other inspectors general, including intelligence community watchdog Michael Atkinson and Defense Department acting inspector general Glenn Fine.
Engle said he'd be "looking into this matter in greater detail" in the days to come.