By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. State Department’s Acting Inspector General Stephen Akard is leaving his post and returning to the private sector, a spokesperson for the agency said on Wednesday, less than three months after his predecessor was abruptly fired by President Donald Trump.
Announcing the departure, a State Department spokesman said Akard’s deputy Diana Shaw would become the new acting inspector general.
Akard’s departure comes after his predecessor, Steve Linick, who had joined the State Department in 2013, was ousted May 15, the latest in a series of government watchdogs dismissed by Trump, decisions that have raised alarm among the Democrats and some Republicans.
Congressional Democrats have launched an investigation into Trump’s firing of Linick, which he said he had done at the behest of U.S. Secretary of Mike Pompeo, one of his most trusted cabinet members.
Democratic lawmakers have said Trump might have fired Linick because he was investigating U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia.
Congressional aides have also said Linick was probing whether Pompeo had misused a taxpayer-funded political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife, such as walking their dog. Pompeo dismissed the accusations as ‘crazy stuff’ and denied knowing the scope of Linick’s probe.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement Akard’s sudden resignation left another opportunity for the administration to try to weaken oversight, even if he did not consider Akard the right choice for the inspector general role.
He also said investigation into the firing of Linick would continue at full speed. On Monday, senior U.S. congressional committee Democrats announced subpoenas for depositions from four aides to Pompeo.
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