A top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressured the department’s internal watchdog to end one of two investigations into Pompeo, according to congressional testimony released Wednesday.
State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was subsequently fired by Donald Trump at Pompeo’s urging, told congressional investigators that senior State Department official Marik String, who is presently the agency’s chief counsel, suggested Linick’s probe of an arms deal Pompeo pushed through was String’s help was beyond Linick’s mandate.
The whole thing just stinks. According to The New York Times, String helped Pompeo lay the groundwork for the $8.1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates so Pompeo could bypass a congressional freeze on the deal. Pompeo ultimately evaded the prohibition by issuing an emergency declaration on May 24, 2019, allowing him to push the deal through despite congressional opposition to using U.S. munitions in air raids responsible for thousands of Yemen civilian deaths.
The same day as Pompeo announced the declaration, String was promoted from heading the agency’s political/military affairs bureau to being the agency’s top attorney—a position that would surely give him a perch to help defend the arms deal on the backend.
Linick testified that during a meeting in the winter of 2019, String—along with Brian Bulatao, a top State Department official and friend of Pompeo’s—tried to convince him the arms deal wasn’t in his purview. According to Linick’s testimony, they told him his office “shouldn’t be doing the work because it was a policy matter not within the I.G.’s jurisdiction.” If making an emergency declaration to push through an arms deal isn’t a”policy” matter, then what exactly is?
Pompeo also declined to be interviewed in Linick’s investigation of the deal.
Conveniently, Pompeo told reporters Wednesday that he had not read the transcript of Linick’s congressional testimony. There’s lot of that “see no evil, hear no evil” mentality going around in Republican circles these days. Apparently the GOP existence is extraplanetary.
Linick’s testimony also revealed Pompeo’s claim that he didn’t know about a second probe into his misuse of government employees was almost surely also a steaming pile of crap.
Remember that last month, this is how Pompeo described his reasoning for recommending that Linick be canned: “I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to…”
But when Trump was asked about Pompeo’s rationale that same week, he offered: “Maybe he thinks he’s being treated unfairly.”
There’s nothing more unfair than a probe of your actions that you’re not willing to participate in, is there?