The Man Behind The State Dept. IG’s ‘Urgent’ Allegations

The US Department of State building is seen in Washington, DC, on July 22, 2019. (Photo by Alastair Pike / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP/Getty Images)
October 2, 2019 4:26 p.m.

State Department Inspector General Steve Linick went to Capitol Hill today to brief powerful congressional committees about a bizarre letter the government agency received from an unknown sender.

But the source of Linick’s information may be just as interesting as what he had to say.

The diplomatic watchdog said in a Tuesday message to House and Senate panels on foreign relations, intelligence, appropriations and oversight that it had obtained the documents from the acting legal adviser of the Department of State. That title is held by Marik String, a former Wilmer Hale associate who passed the bar in 2013.

Per Linick’s letter, String provided information to the IG that urgently needs to be conveyed to Congress. After meeting with the watchdog, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) told reporters that the meeting focused on a letter the State Department received outlining the same conspiracy theories pushed by Trump and his supporters, focusing on allegations around a supposed “deep state.”

Three House panels have depositions scheduled this week with former U.S. special envoy for the Ukraine crisis Kurt Volker and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Both officials left their jobs this year, their careers collateral damage to President Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s dirt-finding efforts in Ukraine.

Linick’s letter came after Pompeo signaled opposition to the planned testimony, himself accusing House Democrats of an attempt to “bully” and “intimidate.”

But the fact that it was String who supposedly supplied the information to the IG raises a number of questions, not least because of his position as legal adviser. The job is essentially general counsel for the State Department, set to operate — in the words of one former official from the office — “the world’s largest international law firm.”

String’s appointment to an acting role in the job in May 2019 raised eyebrows in part because of perceptions that he lacked the necessary experience.

Before going to law school, String appears to have worked as a Republican foreign policy staffer on the hill.

He worked for Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), and traveled to Ukraine in 2010 as an election monitor with the International Republican Institute.

String’s State Department biography notes that as deputy assistant secretary, he was charged with overseeing arms transfers to foreign countries — a portfolio worth $200 billion.

He was appointed to the position on May 24. The same day, Just Security reported, String submitted an “emergency declaration” allowing the White House to go around Congress in authorizing weapons sales to nations in the Persian Gulf.

That was also one day after Trump met with Energy Secretary Rick Perry following the former Texas governor’s return from Kyiv, Volker, and Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland. That meeting has drawn the attention of House Democrats investigating Trump and Giuliani’s pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government to force Kyiv to fabricate political dirt.

The job is not for the callow.

The article in Just Security cited a former State Department official as saying that the legal adviser “is expected to have legal knowledge and expertise on the entire range of international law issues, from the laws of armed conflict to private international law to human rights to international environmental law.”

“It’s hard to imagine someone so inexperienced filling these shoes,” the official continued.

Support The TPM Journalism Fund
  • Contributions allow us to hire more journalists
  • Contributions allow us to provide free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • Contributions support independent, non-corporate journalism
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: