As State Department faces tumult, its inspector general resigns

Three months after Trump sparked a scandal by firing the State Department's inspector general, his successor has unexpectedly resigned.
Image: Senior State Department Management Officials Forced To Resign
The State Department in Washington on January 26, 2017.Win McNamee / Getty Images file
By Steve Benen

Late on a Friday night in May, Donald Trump fired the State Department's inspector general, and when pressed, the president said he ousted the independent watchdog, Steve Linick, at the behest of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

As regular readers know, this was controversial for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the inspector general was investigating possible Pompeo misconduct when the cabinet secretary helped arrange for Linick's firing.

Not quite three months later, the State Department IG who replaced Linick is now resigning. The Washington Post reported this morning:

The internal State Department watchdog, whom President Trump installed after the previous inspector general was abruptly fired, has resigned, the department said in a statement, marking another significant shake-up for an office sworn to investigate malfeasance and wrongdoing. Stephen Akard's departure, which will be effective Friday, was announced to staff members by his deputy, Diana R. Shaw, who told colleagues that she will become the temporary acting inspector general.

Akard's name may be largely unfamiliar to the public, but when he was elevated to the inspector general's post in May, media reports described him as "a trusted ally of Vice President Pence." Given his political connections, the circumstances surrounding Linick's ouster, Akard recused himself in June from the investigations into Pompeo's alleged wrongdoing.

What's more, let's also not forget that Akard was already an employee at the cabinet agency, working as the head of the State Department's Office of Foreign Missions -- a job heintended to keep, even while leading the IG's office. Not surprisingly, this led to concerns about possible conflicts of interest.

Now, that won't be an issue: the State Department's internal watchdog is resigning less than three months after taking on the job. The official explanation is that Akard has accepted a position at a private-sector law firm.

And while I can't speak to the veracity of this explanation, the inspector general's resignation comes just one day after Politico published this report.

The State Department has sharply criticized and largely rejected a recent inspector general's investigation that found "substantial evidence" two Trump administration political appointees had failed to properly report behavior amounting to "workplace violence." The department's response to the probe, included in papers obtained by POLITICO, is fresh evidence of the lingering tensions between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the watchdog office....

Democratic lawmakers have taken a keen interest in recent State Department controversies, including sending two rounds of subpoenas to Foggy Bottom since Friday. Don't be surprised if this scrutiny taken an even more intense turn now.