Jul 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

House committee postpones hearing with top Pompeo aide over ousted inspector general

Bulatao sits in a suit and tie
Brian Bulatao testifies in July 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Tomorrow's high-profile hearing in the Foreign Affairs Committee's investigation into the firing of State Department inspector general Steve Linick was postponed late on Wednesday by Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).

Why it matters: Brian Bulatao, a top State Department official and close confidante of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's, has emerged as a central figure in Linick's removal. The agency watchdog was removed at Pompeo's request.

  • Linick says Bulatao was the one who called him to inform him of the news of his night firing.

What he's saying: Engel said in a statement that Bulatao asked him on Wednesday afternoon to delay Thursday's hearing, in light of the agency receiving its IG report on the Trump administration pushing through the sale of $8 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last year.

  • Bulatao said delaying the hearing would allow the department to make an "expedited review" of the IG report, per Engel's statement.
  • Engel added that Bulatao requested the committee defer depositions with other witnesses until after his testimony, which Engel declined to do.

Catch up quick: Linick testified to lawmakers in June that he was conducting a probe into the administration's efforts to circumvent Congress to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia when Pompeo recommended that Trump fire him. The probe personally involved Pompeo, according to Linick.

  • Pompeo has called the claims leveled against him "unsubstantiated" and claimed that he didn't know about Linick's other ongoing investigation into the secretary of state's alleged misuse of staff.
  • Pompeo told the Washington Post in May: “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.”

What's next: The committee will continue to review documents and interview witnesses, and "Bulatao will appear at a hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee later in July," Engel wrote in his statement.

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

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