Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that he should have asked President Trump to fire State Department inspector general Steve Linick, who became the latest IG to be ousted from his post last Friday, “some time ago.”
“I recommended to the president that Steve Linick be terminated,” Pompeo said. “I frankly should have done it some time ago.”
Asked to elaborate on his comments this week that Linick was “undermining” the mission of the State Department, Pompeo said he couldn’t get specific. But he did refute claims made by Democratic lawmakers that he was seeking to retaliate against Linick. “That’s patently false. I have no sense of what investigations were taking place inside the inspector general’s office. Couldn’t have possibly retaliated. I have seen the various stories. That someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner. It’s all crazy stuff. I didn’t have access to that information, so I couldn’t have possibly retaliated.”
Pompeo knew about at least one of the investigations though, he admitted. He said he answered written questions from Linick this year but wouldn’t say about what. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the questions were about Pompeo’s move to fast-track arms sales to Saudi Arabia last year, despite objections from Congress.
At the time of his firing, Linick was also reportedly investigating whether Pompeo and his wife had a political appointee at the State Department perform personal chores for them, including walking their dog and picking up their dry cleaning.
On Wednesday, Politico reported on another potential factor in Linick’s firing — a recently completed investigation into Cam Henderson, the head of the State Department’s Office of Protocol. Prior to becoming the chief of the office last summer, Henderson served as the No. 2 to Sean Lawler, who was accused “of intimidating and harassing his staffers and even carrying a whip on the job.” The inspector general investigated whether Henderson failed to alert the proper people when reports were made about Lawler’s behavior.
One topic that has gotten attention in recent days that Linick was apparently not investigating is Pompeo’s regular dinners for himself and high-powered guests that were paid for by the State Department. Politico reported that Linick was aware of the so-called Madison dinners but that “they appeared to be carefully organized to meet any legal requirements.”
Among the brief comments Pompeo made Wednesday regarding the inspector general’s firing was a jab at Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, who has requested a details breakdown of the money used to pay for the dinners.
“This is all coming through the office of Senator Menedez,” Pompeo said before referencing Menedez’s own ethical issues. “I don’t get my ethics guidance from a man who was criminally prosecuted.”