During the hearing, State Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao covered several areas where he claimed that Linick failed in his job, including that he had not conducted a statutory audit on time, that under Linick, fewer inspections were started and fewer investigations closed, that internal investigations showed low morale in the inspector’s office.
Bulatao also suggested that Linick may have been responsible for leaking a draft general report to the press. A spokesman for Linick did not immediately comment on Bulatao’s allegations, but Linick has previously noted that an external investigation found no evidence that anyone in his office leaked the inspector̵
Democrats in the panel rejected Bulatao’s explanations, accusing Pompeo of seeking Linick’s dismissal because of investigations he had opened into the secretary’s use of taxpayers’ dollars and Pompeo’s declaration of an emergency that allowed him to make congressional approval to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Congressional Democrats are investigating why Pompeo designed the firing of Linick, who had served as prime minister’s inspector general since 2013. It has taken months for House committees and Pompeo aides to agree on a consultation plan with plenty of legal disputes and fierce public exchanges along the way.
Pompeo asked President Donald Trump to fire Linick, and the president did so in mid-May. Linick became one of several inspectors general the president has put the sideline on. Democrats have criticized the movements, saying Trump is trying to evade accountability.
Inspectors-General must act as independent watchdogs to eradicate waste, fraud and abuse in federal agencies. It’s rare for a president to fire an inspector general, and Linick has said he was surprised to be pushed out.
The night Linick was fired, Engel revealed that the inspector general had investigated whether Pompeo and his wife, Susan, had misused taxpayer resources. The allegations, including asking staff to perform personal errands for them.
Linick also investigated whether Pompeo acted properly by using an emergency to approve arms sales to Saudi Arabia over objections from members of Congress.
The Inspector General’s report on this case showed that Pompeo was acting within his legal authority, but it raised questions about the timing of the emergency declaration and found that the State Department did not fully consider the risk of civilian casualties in places like Yemen when approving arms sales.
Two other Pompeo aides in the state, Acting Legal Adviser Marik String and Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper, both defended Pompeo’s emergency certification, which disclosed arms sales and claimed that Iran posed a serious threat to the region. . String also noted that the language used to fire Linick was similar to the language used during the Obama administration for fire inspectors in general. The aides also insisted that Pompeo was unaware that Linick had launched an investigation into him and his wife.
In a controversial exchange, rep. Brad Sherman (D-California) explains why a delayed annual review was considered a heinous offense when he claimed the state is “chronically late” in preparing other reports “critically needed for life and death policy issues.” Sherman also rejected Bulatao’s claim that low morale was isolated from the inspector’s office.
“If you had any integrity, you would also demand the resignation of Secretary Pompeo,” Sherman told Bulatao.
“We all in this room know what morale is like in his State Department,” he said. “If low morale is the reason someone gets fired, look up and not down.”
Meanwhile, Republicans on the panel defended the decision to fire Linick, pointing to the reasons Bulatao outlined.
In its introductory remarks, the committee’s ranking, the Republican, Texas Rep. Michael McCaul that he hoped that after Wednesday’s hearing he hoped the panel could “put this matter behind us.”
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) Said that in light of what Bulatao said were “significant and numerous” Linick failures, Democrats oppose the former Inspector General “against our duty to maintain public confidence.”
Pompeo has denied knowing that Linick was investigating him and his wife, and he has denied any allegation of misconduct. Linick has told lawmakers he informed some of Pompeo’s biggest aides about the probe.
In letters to lawmakers since Linnick’s dismissal, top aides to Pompeo, including Deputy Prime Minister Steve Biegun, have insisted that to the extent they had been told about the investigation by the secretary and his wife, none of them notified Pompeo.
Since Linick’s dismissal, other frustrations over Pompeos have emerged, though it is not clear whether the inspector’s general’s office weighs them as it continues to investigate actions by the secretary and his wife.
NBC News revealed that Pompeos has hosted fancy, taxpayer-funded dinners primarily for prominent people with no connection to diplomacy. The so-called Madison Dinners have worried Foreign Ministry staffers who suspect they are aiming to build Pompeo’s support and donor base ahead of a future race for political office.
There are also questions about how Pompeos managed to get permission to rent a home at a U.S. military base, and whether it was appropriate to take Susan Pompeo on a trip to the Middle East while a U.S. government shut down.