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Mitt Romney calls Trump firing government watchdogs ‘threat to accountable democracy’

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, heads into a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, March 19, 2020.
Susan Walsh, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney ripped President Donald Trump’s firings of multiple inspectors general, calling it “unprecedented” and a “threat to accountable democracy.”

Romney’s comments on Twitter late Saturday came in response to Trump on Friday dismissing State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, the latest in a series of firings of independent government watchdogs in the wake of the president’s acquittal on two articles of impeachment earlier this year.

“The firings of multiple Inspectors General is unprecedented; doing so without good cause chills the independence essential to their purpose. It is a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of power,” Romney tweeted.

Romney was the the only Republican to vote to convict Trump on abuse of power after his impeachment trial in January.

Quoting a White House official, multiple news outlets reported that Trump fired Linick on the recommendation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Trump told Congress he no longer had full confidence in Linick but did not provide an explanation as to why.

Democrats expressed outrage at Linick’s removal and say he was investigating potential misconduct by Pompeo.

In addition to Romney, R-Utah, other Republicans weighed in on the latest inspector general firing, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who has long advocated for the independence of federal watchdogs.

“As I’ve said before, Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG’s removal. A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress,” he said in a statement.

Congress created inspectors general to combat waste, fraud and abuse, and to be independent watchdogs over federal agencies’ use of taxpayer dollars.

In the past few weeks, Trump has taken steps to remove inspectors general in the Department of Health and Human Services, the Defense Department and the intelligence community, including Michael Atkinson, who insisted on telling the lawmakers about the whistleblower complaint that led to the impeachment proceedings.

In April, Romney joined a bipartisan group of senators, led by Grassley, in demanding Trump explain why he fired Atkinson. They contended in a letter the explanation Trump gave for removing him was insufficient and does not comply with the law. The president cited a lack of confidence in the intelligence community’s top watchdog.

Also in April, Romney and senators from both parties urged the president to ensure the independence of the special inspector general for coronavirus pandemic recovery — a position they worked into the economic relief package and to provide Congress with details about its plans for rigorous oversight.