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Top Democrat to introduce bill to limit Trump's ability to fire IG's

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezNJ Democrat apologizes for making homophobic remarks about gay mayor Democrats warn against pausing WHO aid: Coronavirus not time to ‘upend our relationship’ Hillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website MORE (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said on Monday that he will introduce legislation to limit President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump tears into ’60 Minutes’ after segment with whistleblower Bright James Woods defends Trump: He ‘loves America more than any president in my lifetime’ Kansas governor to meet with Trump at White House MORE‘s ability to fire watchdogs within the administration. 

The decision to introduce new legislation comes after Trump fired Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general, the fourth IG he has ousted in recent months.

“This latest action by the President calls for an immediate response from Congress. That is why I will be introducing new legislation to create additional protections against removing an Inspector General, and to prevent a President from carrying out an unjustified—or worse, politically motivated—removal,” Menendez said in a statement. 

Menendez’s forthcoming bill would give Congress a “mechanism” to review attempts by a president to remove IG’s and would only allow an inspector general to be fired “for cause,” such as misusing funds, abuse of power or breaking the law. 

It would also require that any acting inspectors general be a career official and for the head of agency to recuse themself if they are under investigation. 

Trump announced in a letter to House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFormer national economic council director: I agree with 50 percent of House Democrats’ HEROES Act Pelosi stresses urgency for next relief bill: Hunger, joblessness don’t ‘take a pause’ Ron Johnson says he’s not ‘crying big crocodile tears’ over firing of State Department IG MORE (D-Calif.) that he was firing Linick because he no longer had the “fullest confidence” in him.

Asked about the decision on Monday, Trump indicated that Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoChina emerges as potential strain on US-Israel relationship Pompeo warns China over alleged interference in US reporting in Hong Kong Afghan president, rival end stalemate MORE had asked him to remove Linick. Pompeo, in an interview with The Washington Post, said that he believed Linick was not performing the job in a way that he believed improved the State Department. 

“I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department, very consistent with what the statute says he’s supposed to be doing,” Pompeo said.

The State Department IG was reportedly investigating if Pompeo made a staffer carry out personal tasks, though Pompeo said on Monday that he was not aware of the investigation. Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelRon Johnson says he’s not ‘crying big crocodile tears’ over firing of State Department IG Pelosi on State Department IG firing: ‘Typical of the White House’ to announce something ‘unsavory’ Friday night Pompeo recommended Trump remove State Dept. inspector general: reports MORE (D-N.Y.) said Monday Linick was also probing Trump’s emergency decoration last year that allowed him to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.

The move has sparked fierce backlash from congressional Democrats, with Menendez and Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, launching an investigation over the weekend. 

Several Senate Republicans have said they want a more detailed explanation from Trump, but none have yet endorsed the need for new legislation.  

In addition to Menendez, Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats call for probe into ouster of State Dept. watchdog CDC posts guidance documents on safely reopening public spaces Democratic bill would require cash refunds for all canceled airline tickets during pandemic MORE (D-Conn.) and  Rep. Jim CooperJames (Jim) Hayes Shofner CooperThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Democrat concedes in California House race Liberal group backs primary challenger to Rep. Cooper in Tennessee It’s time to strengthen protections for government watchdogs in order to protect our taxpayer dollars MORE (D-Tenn.) unveiled legislation last month to give Senate-confirmed agency watchdogs a seven-year term in office, with the ability to serve more than one term. 

Under the bill, the inspectors general could only be removed from office early for “permanent incapacity, inefficiency, neglect of duty, malfeasance, or conviction of a felony or conduct involving moral turpitude.”

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