Who Is Stephen Akard? Ambassador Picked to Replace State Department Inspector Steve Linick After Firing

On Friday evening, U.S. President Donald Trump fired Steve Linick from his role as State Department Inspector General. Ambassador Stephen Akard, the director of the Office of Foreign Missions, a division of the State Department will take Linick's place as acting leader of the Office of the Inspector General.

During the impeachment proceedings against Trump, Linick provided House members documents that the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani gave to the State Department.

"As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspector General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General," Trump wrote in the letter announcing Linick's dismissal.

Trump added that he would submit a new nominee to the Senate "at a later date."

Trump has fired the State Department inspector general in his latest effort targeting key watchdogs across the government. According to this letter he sent to Pelosi, Trump says he “no longer” has the “fullest confidence” in the State inspector general. Effective in 30 days. pic.twitter.com/9U4Q3HXd9W

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 16, 2020

Akard once worked as a law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, practiced law in the state and taught at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. He served as a senior foreign affairs advisor to Indiana Governors Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, and Eric Holcomb.

Additionally, Akard served as general counsel, chief of staff and vice president for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, an organization that encourages businesses to operate in the state while benefiting from all state-authorized tax benefits, grants, and other incentives.

During the administration of George W. Bush, Akard served as special assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Executive Secretariat and also worked various officer roles at different U.S. embassies from 1997 to 2005.

He was originally nominated to be director general of the Foreign Service in October 2017, but he withdrew his nomination in March 2018 after officials and legislators criticized his lack of experience and his prior work under Pence.

During his nomination for the role, the American Academy of Diplomacy, a group representing retired senior U.S. diplomats, sent legislators a letter opposing him.

"While Mr. Akard is technically eligible for the position, to confirm someone who had less than a decade in the Foreign Service would be like making a former Army Captain the Chief of Staff of the Army, the equivalent of a four-star general," the letter read.

The position had historically gone to a distinguished senior foreign service officer and former ambassador with decades of experience serving the diplomatic corps.

Two years later, Akard began serving as director of the Office of Foreign Missions on September 16, 2019 after a 90-2 Senate confirmation vote five days earlier.

Inspector General Steve Linick
former U.S. State Department Inspector General Steve Linick departs the U.S. Capitol October 02, 2019 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty

"I can confirm that Mr. Linick was fired," a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek. "The State Department is happy to announce that Ambassador Stephen J. Akard will now lead the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department... and we look forward to him leading the Office of the Inspector General."

In a statement issued Friday night, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said, "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."

"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," she continued.

In April, Trump dismissed Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson after Atkinson handled a 2019 whistleblower complaint alleging the president's quid pro quo political dealings with Ukraine. Trump also recently removed Acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine who was set to oversee the president's management of a $2 trillion dollar coronavirus relief fund for American businesses.