May 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pompeo says he wasn't aware ousted inspector general was investigating him

Pompeo.
Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed to the Washington Post Monday that he asked President Trump to fire State Department inspector general Steve Linick, but claimed that he didn't know Linick was investigating allegations that he had a staffer run personal errands for him and his wife.

Why it matters: Pompeo said Linick "wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to," though he declined to give a specific reason. Pompeo argued that his request to Trump could not have been an act of retaliation because he wasn't aware of the investigation and had never been briefed on it.

  • Pompeo also declined to comment on the substance of what Linick was investigating. “I’m not going to answer the host of unsubstantiated allegations about any of that," he said.

What he's saying: "I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department, very consistent with what the statute says he’s supposed to be doing,” Pompeo told the Post. “The kinds of activities he’s supposed to undertake to make us better, to improve us.”

  • “I actually know how that works,” he added. “I had an IG at the CIA, not the IG that I had chosen but an IG that was there before me. He did fantastic work. He made us better. Linick wasn’t that.”
  • “The president obviously has the right to have an inspector general. Just like every presidentially confirmed position, I can terminate them. They serve at his pleasure for any reason or no reason.”

Brian Bulatao, the State Department’s undersecretary for management, told the Post that there was concern within agency leadership about a "pattern" of media leaks of draft versions of Linick's investigations, though he said there's no evidence that Linick was personally responsible.

  • Bulatao claimed that Linick had declined to refer a leak investigation to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, so that another agency's watchdog could investigate.

Worth noting: House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Monday that Linick was also investigating the Trump administration's effort to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia without approval from Congress.

  • Pompeo did not address this allegation, and it's unclear whether it was publicly known prior to his interview with the Post.
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