Sen. Mitt Romney calls Trump’s firing of government watchdogs ‘a threat to accountable democracy’

(screenshot) Sen. Mitt Romney questions CDC Director Robert Redfield on Tuesday, May 12, 2020.

Washington • Sen. Mitt Romney on Saturday blasted President Donald Trump’s firing of government watchdogs.

“The firings of multiple Inspectors General is unprecedented,” Romney, R-Utah, tweeted. “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.”

Trump on Friday night fired the State Department’s inspector general — essentially the department’s independent watchdog — saying he “no longer” had the “fullest confidence” in Steve Linick, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

Linick is the third inspector general in six weeks Trump has jettisoned on a Friday evening, usually a time when fewer people are paying attention to the news.

Politico reported that Linick had launched an investigation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s use of a political appointee to perform personal tasks.

Trump is set to replace Linick with a longtime aide to Vice President Mike Pence.

Romney’s comments joined a chorus of congressional critics unnerved by Trump’s removal of government watchdogs, including those at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Pentagon and the intelligence community.

The president’s late-night, weekend firing of the State Department inspector general has accelerated his dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an statement. “Inspector General Linick was punished for honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security, as required by the law and by his oath.”

Romney, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012, has been a sometimes vocal critic of Trump — one of only a few Republicans to do so — and voted to convict the president of abuse of power during the February impeachment trial. Trump was acquitted and Romney was the only member of the president’s party to vote that way.

Trump has questioned Romney’s religious beliefs, which Romney cited in announcing his impeachment vote, and last month left him off a congressional task force on reopening the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked by The Salt Lake Tribune if he was still holding a grudge against Romney, Trump said yes.

I’m not a fan of Mitt Romney,” Trump said during a news conference in April. “I don’t really want his advice.”