Leading House Democrats demanded Thursday that fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick be reinstated, and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo turn over a tranche of new documents related to the firing.
In a letter to Pompeo, the Democrats promised a thorough examination by Congress of whether Pompeo had recommended Linick be fired by President Donald Trump due to investigations into the secretary of state’s own conduct.
They pointed to some of the most problematic aspects of Linick’s firing, including new reports about Pompeo’s alleged misdeeds and a replacement IG seemingly ensnared in conflicts of interest.
There has been a steady drip of reporting since Linick’s firing about Pompeo’s possible misuse of State Department funds and personnel. One report that the chairpeople highlighted in their letter detailed how Pompeo was known to host lavish dinners for corporate bigwigs, conservative media stars and various Republican lawmakers in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms on the government’s dime.
“State Department regulations prohibit the use of Diplomatic Reception Rooms for
functions ‘that have a partisan, political, sectarian, or similar nature or purpose’ or for functions ‘of a personal nature, such as private parties or other social events which are not affiliated with, or in support of, official U.S. Government business’,” the committee chairs wrote, citing the Foreign Affairs Manuel.
Another facet of the firing that the committee chairs emphasize is Linick’s replacement, Director of the Office of Foreign Missions Stephen Akard. Akard has worked for Vice President Mike Pence, and has too little experience in investigatory work or law enforcement, the chairs wrote.
Ackard is also currently maintaining his role at the Office of Foreign Missions while filling the acting IG role — meaning that he is simultaneously supposed to be doing oversight of the Department, and Pompeo specifically, while answering to him in another role, the chairpeople highlighted.
“This environment could severely chill whistleblower disclosures to the Office of Inspector General because whistleblowers might fear that their identity could become known to an official still reporting to you,” they wrote.
They recommend that if Ackard does remain in the acting role, he ought to resign from the Office of Foreign Missions and recuse himself from any cases involving that office or that of the Secretary.
On a final note, the chairs threaten legislative reforms to address Linick’s firing along with Trump’s broader axing of other inspectors general, and demand that Pompeo turn over a slew of documents.
Incorporating the new reporting, their document requests include guest manifests and invoices for the glitzy so-called “Madison Dinners,” along with previously requested information about Linick and Ackard. The information is due June 4.
The letter was signed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA), chair of the Subcommittee on Government Operations and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Both Pompeo and Trump have confirmed that Linick was ousted on Pompeo’s recommendation. Pompeo said Wednesday that he should have done it a “long time ago.”
However, Pompeo has repeatedly claimed that the firing was not retaliation for Linick’s investigatory efforts, stating that he didn’t know what they were.
On Wednesday, though, he admitted that he had answered written questions for at least one such investigation. The New York Times reported that the investigation in question concerned Trump’s emergency declaration to allow Pompeo to circumvent Congress and approve billions in arms deals to Saudi Arabia.
Read the letter here: