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Bulatao. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) announced on Monday that Brian Bulatao, a top State Department official and close confidante of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will testify before the committee on July 2 as part of a probe into President Trump's firing of former Inspector General Steve Linick.

Why it matters: Linick testified to lawmakers that he was conducting two investigations that personally involved Pompeo — one concerning allegations of staff misuse and another probing the administration's efforts to circumvent Congress to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia — when Pompeo recommended that President Trump fire him.

  • Bulatao, the State Department’s undersecretary for management, has emerged as a "central figure" in Linick's removal. Linick says Bulatao was the one who called him to inform him of the news of his Friday night firing.
  • Linick testified that Bulatao "tried to bully" him over his investigation into the arms sales, calling it "a policy matter not within the IG’s jurisdiction."

The other side: Pompeo claims he was unaware of Linick's investigation into his alleged misuse of staff. He said at a press briefing that Linick was a "bad actor" and claimed he was fired because he "wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to."

  • Bulatao said in May that there were internal concerns about a "pattern" of media leaks related to Linick's investigations and that the IG was unwilling to refer a leak investigation to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.
  • Bulatao offered no explicit evidence for the allegations.

What they're saying: Engel wrote in a statement, "The American people deserve to know the truth about why the President sacked one of our government's independent watchdogs."

  • "Up to this point, the administration has hidden behind smears and conspiracy theories instead of answering questions. I'm glad that Mr. Bulatao has decided to comply with the Committee's request to appear on the record."

Go deeper

Aug 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pompeo lauds Trump for "bold initiatives in every corner of the world"

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during his speech at the Republican National Convention Tuesday evening that he believes President Trump "has led bold initiatives in nearly every corner of the world" that have kept the U.S. safe.

The big picture: Pompeo's decision to deliver his speech from Jerusalem breaks from the precedent of America's top diplomats staying out of partisan battles — which has spurred an investigation for a possible violation of the Hatch Act.

DOJ pressed to enforce Al Jazeera foreign agent ruling

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department is being pressed to enforce its own demand that the U.S. arm of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera register as a foreign agent.

Why it matters: The launch of Al Jazeera's new right-of-center U.S. media venture, Rightly, has refocused attention on the media company's alleged links to Doha, and DOJ's efforts to crack down on media outlets viewed as foreign interest mouthpieces.

Poll: Immigration is America's most-polarizing issue

Data: The American Aspirations Index/Populace; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Immigration was found to be the most polarizing issue in America based on new polling from Populace.

Why it matters: Americans have surprisingly similar priorities for the U.S., but immigration stands out as one of the few issues with clear partisan differences. It underscores the challenge for advocates and lawmakers hoping to pass immigration reform in the coming weeks amid narrow margins in Congress.