"This doesn't smell right."
That was the reaction from Chris Lu, who held multiple positions in the Obama administration including White House cabinet secretary, to news Wednesday that State Department acting Inspector General Stephen Akard is leaving the post less than three months after the administration ousted the previous IG.
Akard, an ally of Vice President Mike Pence who had been simultaneously serving as Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, is returning to the private sector, department officials said.
This doesn't smell right— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) August 5, 2020
Acting State Dept IG resigns less than three months after his predecessor was fired. All of this is happening while the IG office is investigating Pompeo and his wife https://t.co/P2fiIlvDFk
According to the Washington Post, which was the first to report on the development, staff was informed of Akard's leaving by Deputy IG Diana Shaw, who also said she would take on the role of temporary acting inspector general.
President Donald Trump announced in May that Akard would serve as the head of the Office of Inspector General after ousting his predecessor, Steve Linick—a move seen as continuing a purge of IGs and an attack on government oversight.
The State Dept’s leadership crisis continues as they lose another Inspector General. @SecPompeo can try to limit accountability & transparency but Congress will be diligent in our oversight responsibilities & get to the bottom of the firing of IG Linick.https://t.co/bftbK6IFLi— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) August 5, 2020
Linick's office was carrying out five separate reviews into potential wrongdoings by the department including one regarding Pompeo and his wife's use of government funds. Akard said he would recuse himself from that review in light of his continuing connection to the State Department with the Office of Foreign Missions position.
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[Akard] worked under then-Indiana Gov. Pence as the head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
His ties to Pence and the fact that he maintained his role as the head of the State Department's Office of Foreign Missions when he went over to lead the State IG's office rankled diplomats and Democratic lawmakers, who saw him as a part of the politicization of the State Department.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement that while Akard was not "the right choice to lead the office... his sudden resignation leaves another opportunity for the Trump Administration to try to weaken oversight and accountability."
Menedez pointed to the ongoing congressional investigation into Linick's firing, which the senator said "will continue full speed ahead."
"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," said Menendez.
"Secretary Pompeo must understand this is not an opportunity to embed a loyal political ally to represent his interests in the Inspector General's office," the senator added, "it is about ensuring that there is a qualified, experienced individual who will serve as an independent watchdog to hold the Department and the Secretary accountable for any misconduct."