Top congressional Democrats on Saturday, May 16, slammed President Donald Trump’s decision to fire State Department Inspector General (IG) Steve Linick as “politically motivated” move in order to protect Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and announced that they are launching an investigation into the issue.

In a joint letter, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Sen. Bob Menendez from New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, requested that the White House and the State Department “preserve all records related to the firing” of Linick and turn the information over by Friday, May 22. 

“President Trump’s unprecedented removal of Inspector General Linick is only his latest sacking of an inspector general, our government’s key independent watchdogs, from a federal agency. We unalterably oppose the politically motivated firing of inspectors general and the president’s gutting of these critical positions,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Reports indicate that Secretary Pompeo personally made the recommendation to fire Mr. Linick, and it is our understanding that he did so because the inspector general had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Secretary Pompeo himself,” Engel and Menendez said. “Such an action, transparently designed to protect Secretary Pompeo from personal accountability, would undermine the foundation of our democratic institutions and may be an illegal act of retaliation.”

Citing a senior State Department official, USA Today reported that Linick was investigating Pompeo’s use of State Department staff to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife.

“If Secretary Pompeo is involved in firing his IG—who is heading up that investigation—then that is definitely retaliatory,” the official said. “Someone obviously has something to hide that they don’t want the IG to find out about.”

President Trump fired Linick on Friday night, saying in a letter to Congress that he no longer had confidence in Linick, who was appointed in 2013 during the Obama administration.

Last year, Linick briefed House and Senate committee staffers on documents that Rudy Giuliani provided to the State Department regarding issues in Ukraine. Through an intermediary, Giuliani passed to Pompeo a batch of documents related to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s activities in Ukraine, according to the Daily Caller

The Daily Caller reported, “Two sources familiar with Linick’s ouster told the DCNF that while they were not certain of the precise reason that the watchdog was fired, he was under investigation last year by the Department of Defense’s inspector general for mishandling sensitive material.”

On Friday, the State Department said Linick will be replaced by Stephen Akard, a one-time aide to then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Akard has served in other State Department roles, including as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels.

The Democrats are not only seeking documents and communications related to “termination, removal, or replacement of Inspector General Linick” but also to the qualifications of Akard and “any and all” records of pending IG investigations Linick’s office was working on.