Jun 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Ethics watchdog asks FBI to investigate Pompeo over inspector general's firing

Pompeo in a suit and tie

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefs reporters on June 11. Photo: Yuri Gripas/pool/AFP via Getty Images

An ethics watchdog asked the FBI to investigate Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, in the wake of the State Department inspector general being ousted on his recommendation.

Driving the news: Former agency watchdog Steve Linick told Congress he was conducting five investigations into Pompeo and the department before he was fired, a transcript released Wednesday shows. His investigations included a special immigrant visa program audit and a prove "involving individuals in the Office of the Protocol."

Catch up quick: Pompeo told the Washington Post in May that, when he asked President Trump to fire Linick, he did not know the IG was investigating allegations that he had a staffer run personal errands for him and his wife.

  • Linick alleged in his testimony to Congress that a senior State Department official, who assisted Pompeo in bypassing a congressional freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, pressured him to drop an investigation into the matter, Axios' Ursula Perano and Rebecca Falconer report.
  • Linick told Congress that he was never influenced by State Department leadership on any investigation and no one obstructed him on the Saudi arms sale probe.

What they're saying: "Secretary Pompeo may have obstructed an investigation by the State Department Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) in violation of a criminal obstruction of justice statute" by recommending that Linick be fired, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Noah Bookbinder wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday.

  • “Removing independent inspectors general — particularly when it appears intended to undercut investigations into powerful political figures — poses a serious threat to the stability and future of an ethical government in our country,” Bookbinder said in a Friday press release.

The other side: Pompeo has called the claims leveled against him "unsubstantiated," and told the Post: “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.”

  • In response an investigation launched by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Pompeo wrote in a June 11 letter obtained by Axios that his recommendation for Linick's ouster was based on the IG's "failure to properly perform his duties over a series of many months."
  • Stephen Biegun, deputy secretary of state, told Engel in a separate June 11 letter obtained by Axios that it is "entirely false" to say that Pompeo was aware of Linick's investigation into allegations of misuse of government resources by Pompeo and his wife.

Go deeper: Pompeo bristles at questions over inspector general's firing

Go deeper