Pompeo Accuses Former Watchdog of Undermining State Department

June 10, 2020 Updated: June 10, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday accused former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick of undermining the mission of the department and of being a “bad actor.”

Pompeo made the remarks during a press conference on the occasion of the release of the State Department’s annual international religious freedom report.

The state secretary said that Linick, who was fired by President Donald Trump, was “a bad actor in the inspector general office here,” adding that it was his “mistake” to allow the watchdog to serve in his post as long as he did.

“He continued to undermine what it is, the State Department’s mission is aimed at achieving,” he said.

Pompeo preceded his remarks by saying he hasn’t yet reviewed Linick’s recent closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill, in which the former watchdog claimed he had been pressured not to investigate arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Epoch Times Photo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the State Department in Washington on May 20, 2020. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via Reuters)

Linick told House lawmakers last week he’s unaware if related investigations into Pompeo are being pursued by his replacement and refuted justifications for his firing, according to a 253-page transcript (pdf) released by House Democrats on Wednesday.

“After May 15, I would have no indication one way or the other,” Linick said, according to the transcript. “All I can say is it’s ongoing and—their report is ongoing. That’s the best I can say. I haven’t been in the office for almost several weeks now, so I don’t know the exact status,” he said.

Linick told lawmakers during the closed-door session that prior to being fired, he was conducting an “administrative review” around the use of emergency legal authority to sell billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We were not judging whether the policy was good or bad. We are nonpartisan. We just look at how policies are carried out and whether they comport with applicable regulations and law,” Linick said of the probe.

The former watchdog also said that a senior department official discouraged him from probing the arms sale, claiming that Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao told him his office “shouldn’t be doing the work because it was a policy matter not within the IG’s jurisdiction.”

Steve Linick
Then-State Department Inspector General Steve Linick departs after briefing House and Senate Intelligence committees at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Oct. 2, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Linick added that Bulatao didn’t block the probe, only that he argued the point that it fell outside the jurisdiction of the inspector general.

The interview with Linick was part of Democratic lawmakers’ probe into the circumstances around Linick’s dismissal. Trump fired Linick last month, with Pompeo saying he recommended that the president fire the watchdog.

While in the interview Linick would not speculate on why he was fired, he said, “I can tell you that I don’t believe there’s any valid reason that would justify my removal.”

Democratic lawmakers released a statement Wednesday criticizing the State Department for allegedly withholding information that could help determine whether Linick’s ouster aimed to disrupt investigations into Pompeo’s alleged possible misconduct.

“Mr. Linick addressed head-on the shifting justifications that Administration officials have provided to the press for his termination. Mr. Linick refuted—on the record, with the understanding that false statements to Congress are punishable under the law—charges being leveled against him by these officials and their allies in Congress,” the lawmakers wrote.

“If State Department officials want to refute Mr. Linick’s account, they can do so as the Committees have requested—under the same questioning that Mr. Linick voluntarily faced. With the release of this transcript today, the American people can see that the Administration has much to answer for,” they wrote.

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