In his first testimony before Congress as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was pressed by Democratic House members about allegations that career civil servants at the State Department were targeted for reassignment because of their work under the Obama administration — a possible violation of federal law.
The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, came out swinging in his opening statement, citing “whistleblowers who have reported to this committee that the Administration has targeted career employees because of their perceived political beliefs.”
When Engel asked Pompeo why the agency has yet to respond to the lawmakers’ request for documents related to these alleged incidents of retaliation, the Secretary of State promised to check on the request, and by the end of this week give them a timeline for obtaining the documents. Pompeo added that if anyone at the Department did engage in such targeting, they should not be employed at State.
The State Department’s Inspector General office confirmed to TPM last week that they are investigating allegations that senior diplomats, bureau leaders and National Security Council staff were punitively reassigned to processing Freedom of Information Act requests. Engel and other Democrats requested the investigation back in January, after employees at the State Department blew the whistle.
The same lawmakers have requested information about the sidelining of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career State Department staffer who was removed from her position after outside conservative activists wrote to the Trump administration flagging her Iranian-American heritage and her work on the Iran nuclear agreement under the Trump administration.
“This is potentially a violation of laws governing State Department personnel,” Engel said at Wednesday’s hearing. “It also strikes at the idea that politics should stop at the water’s edge — that the way we carry out foreign policy should put American interests first and leave partisan concerns behind.”
Pressing Pompeo on his promise to get the committee the documents they have demanded regarding the controversial reassignments, Engel noted that “the Department has not produced the requested documents that would allow Congress to conduct effective oversight.”