Washington: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended his push to have his department’s inspector general fired, saying he “should have done it some time ago,” but refused to explain his reasoning for recommending President Trump to remove Steve Linick from his job.
When pressed to explain why he lobbied to have the independent watchdog fired, Pompeo refused to elaborate, saying only that he would “share with the appropriate people.” He also said claims that he pushed for Linick’s ouster in retaliation for the watchdog’s probes into some of his activities and his use of the office are “patently false.”
Senator Bob Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, New York Rep. Eliot L. Engel, are investigating whether Linick’s dismissal was meant to shield Pompeo from oversight. They have given the administration until May 22 to turn over all records related to the firing.
On Wednesday, Pompeo ridiculed the investigations Linick was reportedly conducting.
Pompeo spoke a day after it emerged that Linick may have been looking into private, elite dinners the secretary has held in the sumptuous ceremonial rooms at the State Department.
Lawmakers have begun to look closely at these “Madison Dinners,” as Pompeo called them, and two sources tell CNN that Linick had recently asked the State Department protocol office about the semi-regular events.
Linick, whose office is charged with investigating waste, fraud and abuse at the State Department, has also been investigating allegations that Pompeo used a political appointee for personal tasks such as dog walking and making restaurant reservations.
The IG was also reportedly looking into whether Pompeo broke rules when he declared an emergency last year that allowed the administration to fast track an $8 billion arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their war in Yemen over congressional objections.
Pompeo had refused to sit for an interview with the inspector general’s office as part of that investigation, a congressional aide told CNN.
Pompeo dismissed the idea that he fired Linick in an attempt to retaliate. “I didn’t know what was being investigated so I couldn’t retaliate,” he said.
Yet, Foreign Policy magazine observes that Pompeo is in no trouble, as “he has been especially adept at executing Trump’s agenda at the State Department—most recently as an attack dog in the war of words with China—so it’s unlikely Trump will sour on him.”