On IG firing, Pompeo's version of events starts to look a little worse

Pompeo ousted the State Department's inspector general, who was investigating him at the time. The secretary's defense is looking quite shaky.
Image: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the State Department in Washington
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the State Department in Washington on May 20, 2020.Nicholas Kamm / Pool via Reuters file
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By Steve Benen

It's been nearly a month since Donald Trump -- late on a Friday night -- fired the State Department's inspector general at the behest of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It quickly became apparent that the independent watchdog, Steve Linick, was ousted in the midst of his office's investigations into possible Pompeo misconduct.

The cabinet secretary initially said he didn't know about Linick's probes. Pompeo changed direction soon after, conceding that he was, in fact, aware of the IG's investigation into Pompeo's role in circumventing Congress on a dubious arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Last week, NBC News reported on a private congressional interview in which Linick said he was reviewing controversies related directly to Pompeo -- including an inquiry into possible misuse of department resources -- and the watchdog alerted top Pompeo aides to the inquiry. This morning, the House Foreign Affairs Committee released a lengthy transcript of the Linick interview in which he described talking about probes with Undersecretary of State Brian Bulatao, Deputy Secretary Steve Biegun, and Executive Secretary Lisa Kenna.

"I didn't want them to be surprised," Linick said of the State Department officials, while referencing the materials he was seeking as part of the investigation.

A Washington Post analysis added this morning:

...Bulatao is one of Pompeo's closest allies, having previously served as chief operating officer of the CIA when Pompeo served as the intelligence agency's director. Pompeo said in an interview last year that Bulatao was one of his "longest, best friends in the whole world." So in order for Pompeo's defense to hold up, Linick would have informed all of these high-ranking officials -- including a very close ally in Bulatao -- and requested documents from the secretary's office, yet none of this would have been brought to Pompeo's attention.

Remember, according to Pompeo, the idea that he fired his own agency's independent watchdog couldn't have been to derail the investigator because, according to the secretary, he had no idea he was under investigation.

That was dubious at the time. It seems a bit worse now.