A US State Department inquiry into whether the Trump Administration acted illegally in declaring an "emergency" to bypass a congressional freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been facing stiff resistance from the White House.
In the latest case of obstruction, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, declined interview requests and chose instead to answer written questions from investigators working for the inspector general, Steve A Linick.
Linick was fired last week by US President Donal Trump. He was charged with investigating the president's decision to declare a national security emergency in 2019 to justify an $8.1 billion arms shipment to Saudi Arabia. Reasons for his dismissal are still not clear leading to speculation that he was expelled because of his investigation.
The New York Times suggested that the timing of Linick's dismissal and Pompeo's refusal to give in an interview suggests that the secretary of state was aware of the inspector general's investigation and the specific lines of questioning over the resumption of arms sales to the Gulf States.
Some have accused the White House of cover-up. "I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick's firing. His office was investigating — at my request — Trump's phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia," Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement to CNN on Monday. "We don't have the full picture yet, but it's troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed."
This controversy between Congress and White House began last year. Lawmakers angry about the huge civilian toll from Saudi's air campaign in Yemen, as well as human rights abuses such as the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey, failed in their bid last year to block the sales of offensive military equipment to the kingdom and the UAE.
Trump refused to heed to their call and snubbed their concerns. "These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran," Pompeo said in a statement at the time.
The move drew bipartisan condemnation, with lawmakers decrying the precedent it had set; opening up the door for future presidents to abuse their power by dismissing Congress' concerns.