Fired State Department IG cites 'bullying' from senior officials

Steve Linick told lawmakers that he didn't know why he was dismissed from his post, but many Democrats say investigations of Secretary Mike Pompeo played a role.

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Steve Linick, the former State Department inspector general, was fired by the Trump administration just eight days after lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee requested an update on a probe of controversial arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

In an interview with members of Congress and staff from multiple House committees released June 10, Linick discussed controversy regarding his attempt to conduct oversight related to the Arms Export Control Act and what Linick described as "bullying" from Undersecretary for Management Brian Bulatao, a longtime friend and associate of Secretary Mike Pompeo. Additionally, Linick confirmed reports that the Office of Inspector General was conducting a probe into the misuse of staff by Pompeo and his wife.

Linick declined to explicitly link any of these episodes to his dismissal – one of several IG firings in recent months.

"I don't know why I have been removed, and there's been no valid reason presented to me for that removal," Linick said. He also said he was not expecting the dismissal.

"I was completely taken by surprise. I just had a town hall with my staff on COVID-19, and I was in a state of shock because I had not been -- I had no advance notice of anything like that," he said.

Linick told Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) during the interview that he had notified Bulatao and Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun that his office was investigating allegations that Secretary Pompeo and his wife had misused government resources. He also testified that his office notified Executive Secretary Lisa Kenna that it would need to request relevant documents.

"The whole point was not to surprise the Seventh Floor writ large, because they were going to get these document requests," Linick said, referring to the part of the State building where Pompeo and his staff have their offices.

This appeared to contradict Pompeo's previous claims that he didn't know the State OIG was investigating him after President Donald Trump fired Linick on May 15.

Protecting the independence of IGs and strengthening oversight protocols has become a hot button issue for lawmakers.

The Government Accountability Office published an audit report on June 8 that urged IG offices to identify threats to their independence and take further steps to ensure that appropriate guardrails were in place to prevent removals, particularly for that of acting officials.

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