The State Department’s top watchdog has resigned less than three months after President Donald Trump fired his predecessor.
According to Politico, the shake-ups at the State Department continued on Wednesday when it was announced that acting Inspector General (IG) Stephen Akard would be stepping down from the role he took over from Steve Linick in May.
According to the Washington Examiner, State Department staffers were notified on Wednesday that Akard was leaving the department and returning to Indiana.
“Ambassador Stephen J. Akard, the State Department’s Acting Inspector General and the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, has announced he is returning to the private sector after years of public service,” a department spokesperson said, according to The Hill.
Akard’s resignation drew immediate scrutiny from Democrats, who have been investigating the firing of his predecessor, an Obama holdover who Trump ousted amid controversy in May, as Reuters noted. Democrats have accused President Trump of purging disloyal officials, and they cast Linick as a victim of an effort to rid a corrupt administration of necessary watchdogs.
According to Reuters, Linick was investigating whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was having staff do personal chores, like walking his dog, when he was fired. Another probe from the former IG reportedly looked into a Saudi Arabian arms deal worth billions of dollars.
Akard, for his part, had recused himself from the probes under pressure from Democrats, who claimed that he had conflicts of interest, as the Associated Press reported.
“A leadership crisis”
As Politico noted, Akard stepped into the role under scrutiny over the fact that he once worked for Mike Pence, then the governor of Indiana, at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Akard also kept a job at the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions while serving as the department’s top watchdog.
Reacting to the news of his departure, Democrats said that Akard was not the “right choice” but that his resignation was nevertheless alarming.
“I am concerned that his sudden resignation leaves another opportunity for the Trump Administration to try to weaken oversight and accountability,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said Wednesday, according to Politico.
“As a leadership crisis at the State Department continues to shake the agency to its core, it is imperative that the next IG, or the Deputy IG, ensures that the work of the office continues apace,” Menendez added. “I will be closely scrutinizing the replacement choice and the work of the IG’s office.”
According to UPI, Democrat Reps. Eliot Engel (NY) and Carolyn Maloney (NY) warned in a Wednesday statement against “any effort by the Trump Administration to install another political loyalist.” It remains to be seen, however, whom the White House has in mind for the job.