On Friday, it was reported that State Department Inspector General Steve Linick had been fired. Immediately, the left pounced calling it “an unlawful act of retaliation.” The story was that Linick was conducting an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for asking subordinates to run personal errands for him and his wife.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) said, “I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo. Mr. Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation.”
House Democrats may want to hold their fire and take a look at a report which appeared in The Washington Post on Monday.
Brian Bulatao, the State Department’s undersecretary for management, told The Post that Linick had been fired due to an alleged “pattern of unauthorized disclosures, or leaks to the news media about investigations that were in an early draft form.” According to The Post, Bulatao said that “officials had no evidence Linick was personally responsible for the leaks but that the disclosures had the potential of tainting the outcome of ongoing probes.”
Bulatao said the matter first arose last fall after media reports about an ongoing investigation that cited “two government sources involved in carrying out the investigation. You know the IG is normally charged with carrying out the investigation. It certainly was a very strong finger-pointing at IG Linick’s way.”
Bulatao told The Post that “Linick had ignored the directions of then-deputy secretary of state John Sullivan to refer the leak investigation to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency so that an inspector general from another agency could be appointed to look into it.” He added that “Our understanding is he picked another fed agency on his own, to pick the person he wanted to grade his own homework, which sets up a whole apparent conflict of interest.”
“Bulatao also faulted Linick for not promoting Pompeo’s professional ethos statement, laying out basic principles of respect and dedication, through training sessions and other activities. The Office of Inspector General was the only State Department bureau or mission that did not promote it, he said.”
On Friday, The Daily Caller reported that Linick was “under investigation last year by the Department of Defense’s inspector general for mishandling sensitive material.”
The Post’s Carol Morello spoke to Pompeo on the telephone who denied that Linick’s firing had been an act of political retaliation because he had no knowledge of Linick’s investigation. He said Linick’s work had been “undermining the department’s mission.”
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, that was additive for the State Department, very consistent with what the statute says he’s supposed to be doing. The kinds of activities he’s supposed to undertake to make us better, to improve us.
I actually know how that works. I had an IG at the CIA, not the IG that I had chosen but an IG that was there before me. He did fantastic work. He made us better. Linick wasn’t that.
Appearing before the House Appropriations Committee last year, Linick said in his first five years as inspector general his office issued more than 600 reports in which they identified $1.7 billion in potential savings.
The president obviously has the right to have an inspector general. Just like every presidentially confirmed position, I can terminate them. They serve at his pleasure for any reason or no reason.
It is not possible that this decision, or my recommendation rather, to the president rather, was based on any effort to retaliate for any investigation that was going on or is currently going on.
Because I simply don’t know. I’m not briefed on it. I usually see these investigations in final draft form 24 hours, 48 hours before the IG is prepared to release them.
So it’s simply not possible for this to be an act of retaliation. End of story.
Morello asked Pompeo whether he had asked subordinates to run personal errands for him and he replied, “I’m not going to answer the host of unsubstantiated allegations about any of that.”
She also questioned him on the message Linick’s firing might send to “inspectors general throughout the government that they can be fired for doing their jobs.” He said:
I actually hope the message that went out to the State Department is that every employee has the same mission set. We’ve talked about one team, one mission here since the very day that I came here and talked about getting our swagger back. That applies to every employee of the Department of State, wherever you may work, in our legal shop, in our regional bureaus or the inspector general’s operation.
There are 74,000-plus people here State Department. The fact that you’ve been able to touch a couple that weren’t happy with what I did is unsurprising to me. I am focused on the mission. We have a constitutional responsibility, an operation designed to support President Trump’s foreign policy. That’s what I’m focused on every day, even in these challenging times of covid-19.
Pompeo added that he normally learns about investigations shortly before reports are released. He remembered only one case, involving a national security matter, in which he learned about an investigation ahead of that time.