Political News

Pompeo rebukes senior Democrat in dispute over watchdog firing inquiry

Posted August 11, 2020 6:30 p.m. EDT

— Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rebuked House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel of New York in a lengthy letter following subpoenas issued as part of the Democratic probe into the firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

In the letter dated Friday and released by the State Department on Tuesday, Pompeo said the State Department has instructed the subpoenaed officials "not to appear for the noticed depositions, until a mutually acceptable accommodation can be reached."

Pompeo argued that the subpoenas issued by Engel, House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney of New York and Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Robert Menendez of New Jersey "would purport to exclude agency counsel" and as such they "are not constitutionally valid."

On August 3, the Democratic lawmakers issued subpoenas for depositions from Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao, acting Legal Adviser Marik String, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Michael Miller and Senior Adviser Toni Porter as part of the inquiry into Linick's sudden ouster in mid-May.

Pompeo said that Bulatao, String, Miller and Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper "are willing and prepared to appear as soon as Thursday, August 13 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. for a classified session and on the record hearing" with the House Foreign Affairs and House Oversight committees.

A congressional aide working on the inquiry into Linick's firing told CNN, "The committee subpoenaed four individuals and those subpoenas remain in effect."

The top US diplomat declined to offer Porter -- a longtime aide to Pompeo who may have knowledge whether there had been misuse of taxpayer resources by the Pompeos -- during that session. In the letter, Pompeo said that on July 31 the department had "offered a briefing with appropriate officials who, unlike Ms. Porter, actually have responsibility for the approval of resources and can speak authoritatively on such matters."

"In addition, we offered to further discuss the appropriate manner in which Ms. Porter could potentially address any outstanding questions that remained," he wrote. "It is also important to note that Ms. Porter has no involvement in or knowledge about the Secretary's decision to remove Mr. Linick as State Department Inspector General."

In his letter, Pompeo claimed the House Foreign Affairs Committee "had rejected more than a dozen good faith accommodation offers."

"Absent any other explanation, we are left with the conclusion that the Committee does not actually want to receive information from the Department, much less have the truth fully aired in a public hearing, but that instead, you are content with pursuing bogus 'investigations' behind closed doors and requiring the Department to expend an inordinate amount of time and resources making accommodation offers that the Committee never had any intention of seriously considering," Pompeo wrote.

On Tuesday, a report from the State Department's watchdog found the agency had complied with legal requirements in declaring an emergency to sell billions of dollars' worth of arms to Gulf allies but did not fully assess the risks to civilians associated with that sale.

Pompeo said on Twitter that "the IG has fully vindicated the dedicated professionals" of the Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

"I'm sorry that @RepEliotEngel and @SenatorMenendez misuse their committees for political games," he wrote.

Engel retorted with "Nice try."

"The @StateDept redacted the details showing that it was a phony emergency. @StateDeptPM may have lied to Congress about it. You fired the @StateOIG who was looking into it. Why? To sell weapons that will kill innocent Yemenis and then cover it up," the New York Democrat wrote.

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