Aug 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Top Democrat accuses State Department of "temper tantrum"

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wearing a USA flag face mask during an inauguration ceremony in the Dominican Republic
Mike Pompeo. Photo: Orlando Barría/AFP/Getty Images

House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that multiple staff-level briefings were cancelled this week, and accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of trying to “thwart” oversight efforts.

Why it matters: The House is investigating the dismissal of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who, in June, testified that he was conducting two investigations involving Pompeo before being fired. The secretary of state has said that Linick’s firing was not an act of retaliation because Pompeo wasn't aware he was being investigated over allegations of staff misuse.

What he's saying: "...Mr. Pompeo is sending a clear message: stop investigating me or the State Department is going to stop engaging Congress on other matters of national security," Engel wrote on Tuesday. "This isn’t just petty; it’s dangerous. Congress and the Administration need to work together on the challenges facing our country or our security will suffer."

  • “On top of that, Mr. Pompeo has apparently funneled State Department resources toward the Senate Republican-led smear campaign against former Vice President Biden, which itself is amplifying Russian disinformation targeting our election."
  • "On that matter, Mr. Pompeo has defied a duly authorized subpoena, throwing up specious legal arguments in a futile attempt to hide his glaringly partisan behavior and possible illegal acts at the State Department he runs."

“Nevertheless, the Committee’s work goes on," Engel said. "We continue to hear from witnesses, including Pompeo senior advisor Toni Porter, who appeared for a voluntary interview today about the Inspector General firing, particularly that IG’s office was looking into allegations that the Secretary misused Department resources for his own needs and whims."

Of note: The now-cancelled briefings "had nothing to do with ongoing oversight requests," Engel's statement read. Instead, they related to a range of concerns including counterterrorism efforts in Sahel, the Islamic State's recent takeover of a port in Mozambique and the closure of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, China.

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