Ousted State Department Inspector General Steve Linick testified that State Department officials tried to “bully” him away from his probe into an emergency declaration that cleared the way for an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, according to Democrats.
Linick testified virtually and in private before a slew of House committees Wednesday, weeks after being fired by President Donald Trump on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recommendation. Since then, information has surfaced about investigations Linick was leading that touched on Pompeo’s behavior.
One of those, his probe into actions surrounding Pompeo’s $8 billion Saudi arms deal, allegedly ruffled some feathers within the State Department.
In May 2019, Trump issued an emergency declaration under the Arms Export Control Act which allowed Pompeo to green light the deal without congressional approval.
Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao and acting State Department Legal Adviser Marik String urged the IG not to investigate the episode, according to Democrats who heard Linick’s testimony.
A State Department spokesperson told TPM that the deal was “essential” to helping U.S. allies and to quell Iran’s power in the region. CNN reported that Pompeo instructed State Department officials to retroactively find an explanation for the emergency declaration after he decided he wanted to do the deal.
Linick also reportedly said that Pompeo refused to sit for an interview. Pompeo ended up providing written answers about his role in the emergency declaration and arms deal.
The Democrats said that Linick confirmed that he had been conducting an ongoing probe into misuse of department resources by Pompeo and his wife, and that top brass at the State Department knew about it. Reports sketched accusations that the Pompeos made a political appointee walk their dog and pick up their dry cleaning. Pompeo has claimed that he didn’t know about that investigation and ridiculed the complaints as “crazy.”
Since Linick’s firing, Bulatao has said that the inspector general was actually ousted due to suspicions that he was leaking to the media. Democrats quote Linick as calling those accusations “misplaced or unfounded.”
“I have not heard any valid reason that would justify my removal,” he reportedly said.
The State Department did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.
Pompeo has confirmed that he submitted written responses for one of Linick’s investigations, but claimed that he didn’t know the scope of the probe, nor whether it was ongoing. He has repeated that the firing was not done out of retaliation, saying vaguely that Linick undermined the mission of the department.
Trump has said that he didn’t know who Linick was until Pompeo told him to fire him. Still, the ouster seems to have been no skin off the President’s back: he has fired or removed from their leadership positions five inspectors general in the span of a few months.
Even Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), a reliable supporter of the President, has said that the White House has failed to provide adequate explanations for some of the firings.