Washington—Today, Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, Representative Joaquin Castro, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations issued the following statement after State Department Inspector General Steve Linick voluntarily appeared for a transcribed interview with the Committees:
“Mr. Linick testified that he was ‘shocked’ when he found out he was being fired, that his removal came without any warning from President Trump or Secretary Pompeo, and that the Administration’s after-the-fact justifications are ‘either misplaced or unfounded.’ Mr. Linick confirmed that at the time he was removed as IG, his office was looking into two matters that directly touched on Secretary Pompeo’s conduct and that senior State Department officials were aware of his investigations.
“We’re grateful for Mr. Linick’s decades of service to our country and for having the courage to come forward and discuss his sudden and unjustified firing. We intend to release the transcript of today’s proceedings as soon as possible. We still have many unanswered questions, and today’s testimony makes it all the more critical that the Administration immediately comply with outstanding requests for additional witness interviews and documents.”
Major takeaways from Mr. Linick’s interview:
· Mr. Linick confirmed that, at the time of his firing, there was an ongoing investigation into allegations of misuse of government resources by Secretary Pompeo and his wife. He also confirmed that his office sought documents related to this matter from the Secretary’s office through Executive Secretary Lisa Kenna, and that he had personally discussed this investigation with Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao and Deputy Secretary of State Biegun. He stated that his staff had these discussions so State Department leadership “would not be surprised.” On May 18, three days after Mr. Linick was fired at Secretary Pompeo’s recommendation, Pompeo denied knowing about this investigation in an interview with the Washington Post.
· Mr. Linick confirmed that, at the time of his firing, there was an ongoing investigation into Secretary Pompeo’s 2019 “emergency” declaration under the Arms Export Control Act, which was used to push through roughly $8 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and other countries. Mr. Linick said that his office had requested an interview with Secretary Pompeo, but that the Secretary refused after Mr. Linick insisted that a witness from the OIG be present.
· Mr. Linick also testified that Mr. Bulatao and Marik String—who was made acting State Department Legal Adviser on the day of the “emergency” declaration and whose testimony the committees have also sought in this investigation—argued that his office should not pursue the investigation. Mr. Linick stated that after Secretary Pompeo provided written answers to State OIG relating to this investigation, Linick approached String and another official about interviewing Pompeo after the end of the COVID crisis. They did not respond to Linick’s request before he was fired.
· Mr. Linick specifically refuted allegations about unauthorized disclosures to the press about a report documenting political retaliation in the Secretary’s office, and explained in detail the steps he took—with the knowledge of Under Secretary Bulatao and others—to initiate an independent investigation by the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG) that cleared his office of any unauthorized disclosures of the report. He testified that he discussed this process directly with Under Secretary Bulatao and other officials, stating that he informed these officials in fall 2019 that he first approached the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE)—which did not have jurisdiction for such an investigation—then two other Inspectors General—who did not have the resources at that time to conduct an investigation—before DoD IG agreed to investigate.
· Mr. Linick’s explanation of this matter directly contradicts several statements that Bulatao made in a June 1, 2020 letter to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committees will continue to seek an interview with Bulatao so that he can explain any role he played in Mr. Linick’s firing and clarify whether he misled the Congress in that letter.
· Mr. Linick also testified that Under Secretary Bulatao—a longtime friend of Secretary Pompeo—attempted to ‘bully’ the Inspector General on several occasions. Mr. Linick testified that Mr. Bulatao pressured him to act in ways that Mr. Linick felt were inappropriate—including Bulatao telling Linick that the investigation into weapons sales to Saudi Arabia was not a matter for the IG to investigate, and Bulatao telling Linick that he wanted to oversee the independent investigation into allegations of a State OIG draft report leak to the media.
· Mr. Linick rejected the Administration’s explanations for why he was terminated, stating in response to public statements by Pompeo and other top officials: “I have not heard any valid reason that would justify my removal.” He also stated regarding these public statements by Pompeo and others: “Those explanations are either misplaced or unfounded.”
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