Late Friday night, Donald Trump fired, Steve Linick, the inspector general for the State Department, the fourth such firing in the last six weeks. The question, of course, is why the president took such a step.
Yesterday, Trump seemed eager to pass the buck and put the onus on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Asked at a White House event yesterday for some kind of explanation for Linick's ouster, the president told reporters, "Yeah, I don't know him at all. I never even heard of him, but I was asked to by the State Department, by Mike.... I don't know what's going on other than that, but you'd have to ask Mike Pompeo."
The comments hardly diffused the controversy. On the contrary, Trump's eagerness to wash his hands of the matter only raised the volume on the lingering questions. After all, the State Department's IG -- the cabinet agency's internal, independent watchdog -- was investigating Pompeo when Pompeo directed the president to fire the investigator.
And what, pray tell, is the Kansas Republican offering by way of a defense? NBC News reported:
The State Department and Pompeo's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But in brief excerpts from a forthcoming interview with The Washington Post, posted by the reporter to Twitter, Pompeo said the inspector general "wasn't performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to" and was "trying to undermine what it was that we were trying to do."
A State Department official also told the Washington Post there were concerns about a "leak" to the media eight months ago, though there's no proof Linick was involved.
All of which suggests the official explanation needs some work. The inspector general wasn't performing the way Pompeo and his team "tried to get him to" perform? Perhaps not, but since it's not a cabinet secretary's job to direct an IG's activities, that's not much of a criticism.
Linick was "trying to undermine" Pompeo's objectives? I suppose that's possible, but again, it's not an independent watchdog's job to be a team player alongside partisans' plans.
What we're left with is a controversial cabinet secretary facing an investigation and then arranging for the investigator to be fired. Pressed for an explanation, the same cabinet secretary peddled talking points that aren't exactly persuasive, which makes it that much more difficult to make the questions go away.
Postscript: Here's a line of inquiry for Trump World to consider: if Linick was legitimately doing a bad job and needed to go, why try to hide his ouster late on a Friday night?