US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Accusations that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo improperly used government resources, including asking diplomatic security agents to run personal errands, have come under new scrutiny after President Donald Trump ordered to oust the department's inspector general last week.

The inspector general, Steve A. Linick, who lead hundreds of employees in investigating fraud at the State Department, had begun an inquiry into Pompeo's possible misuse of a political appointee to perform personal tasks for him and his wife, like walking the dog, picking up dry-cleaning and making restaurant reservations, according to Democratic aides quoted by The New York Times.

The details of Linick's investigation are not clear but the move has handed Democrats and other critics a new weapon to scrutinize accusations regarding the Trump administration's pattern of abusing taxpayer money.

The investigation into Linick's dismissal, led by Congressional Democrats, is aimed at determining whether the act was one of illegal retaliation intended to shield Pompeo from accountability -- which "would undermine the foundation of our democratic institutions," Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, leading Democrats on foreign policy committees, said in a joint statement cited by the newspaper.

Engel stressed on Sunday that Pompeo must turn over all requested records, and said, "What I've learned about Inspector General Stephen Linick's removal is deeply troubling." Linick is the fourth inspector general to fall in a purge this spring by Trump of officials he has deemed insufficiently loyal, but the dismissal is the first to prompt a formal inquiry in Congress and also drawn criticism from a few Republicans as well.

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