State Issues New Defense Of Pompeo Over Saudi Emergency Declaration

Mike Pompeo (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / POOL / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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May 22, 2020 11:58 a.m.

In a new defense of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provided to TPM, the State Department called the emergency declaration approving a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia “essential” and legal.

The statement comes after reporting this week that Pompeo’s involvement in the emergency declaration was among the matters the department’s inspector general had been probing before President Trump fired him.

“As the Secretary has said, The United States is, and must remain, a reliable security partner to our allies and partners around the world,” a department spokesperson told TPM. “His May 24, 2019, Emergency designation was essential to helping U.S. partners better defend themselves and it reinforced changes to U.S. posture in the region to deter Iran.”

“The Department met the requirements of the law and followed relevant practice in invoking this emergency authority, and has moved these arms transfers forward,” the spokesperson added.

Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, told TPM that fired  Inspector General Steve Linick was conducting an ongoing investigation into the President’s emergency declaration that allowed Pompeo to approve the arms deal. Trump fired Linick last Friday on Pompeo’s recommendation.  

The State Department’s defense is particularly notable given a Thursday report from CNN detailing Pompeo’s push to get State Department officials to find a reason to justify the emergency declaration after he decided to enter into the $8 million arms deal last year. He ultimately got it done by using a provision of the Arms Export Control Act. 

At the time, he told the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in a letter that the rapid action was necessary to “deter further the malign influence of the Government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.” The move spurred bipartisan denunciations. 

It is still unclear to what degree, if any, Linick’s investigation into the Saudi Arms deal catalyzed his firing. Pompeo has repeatedly maintained that the move was not one of retaliation, saying that he didn’t know anything about Linick’s probes. He did admit Wednesday, though, that he had answered written questions as part of one of those investigations. The New York Times reported that the investigation in question was the probe into the arms sale. 

Linick was also looking into other allegations of Pompeo’s misuse of department funds and personnel. House Democrats from a slew of oversight and foreign policy agencies wrote Pompeo a letter Thursday requesting documents about instances of that possible misuse. One allegation the committee chairs emphasized centered on Pompeo’s reported tendency to throw upscale dinners for the Republican glitterati on the government’s dime.

Pompeo has dismissed the allegations as “crazy stuff,” laughing off complaints that he used State Department personnel as errand boys as claims that “someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner.”

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