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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference at the State Department on March 25, 2020.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images file

State Department watchdog: Pompeo repeatedly violated ethics rules

According to an inspector general's probe, Mike Pompeo ignored the State Department's ethics rules. There's plenty for him to be embarrassed about.


During his controversial tenure in the Trump administration, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced so many ethics controversies, it's been difficult to keep up with each of them. The Kansas Republican's ethics messes were so severe that last May -- late on a Friday night -- Donald Trump fired the State Department's inspector general at Pompeo's behest.

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 investigation continued anyway, and the Associated Press reported on the findings.

The State Department's internal watchdog has concluded that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife violated federal ethics rules by asking staffers to run personal errands and perform non-official work such as making restaurant reservations, shopping and caring for their dog. In a report released on Friday, the department's inspector general concluded that those requests were "inconsistent" with the regulations.

Because Pompeo is a private citizen, and his abuses did not rise to the level of criminal misconduct, there isn't much the State Department can do to discipline the former cabinet secretary. For all intents and purposes, the sole punishment is public embarrassment.

And on that front, there's plenty for Pompeo to be embarrassed about.

When many of these allegations first came to the fore last spring, the Kansas Republican dismissed the claims as "crazy stuff." The State Department's inspector general's office came to a very different conclusion, concluding that the former secretary and his wife "made over 100 requests to employees in the office of the secretary to conduct work that appeared to be personal in nature."

Among the tasks identified in the report were "picking up personal items, planning events unrelated to the department's mission, and conducting such personal business as pet care and mailing personal Christmas cards." It also noted nearly three dozen instances in which the Pompeos directed State Department personnel to make restaurant reservations for personal lunches and dinners, on top of requests for aides to arrange for private flower deliveries and book hair salon appointments.

Not surprisingly, the former cabinet secretary took issue with the findings and denied any wrongdoing.

Many of the tasks were apparently handled by Toni Porter, a longtime member of Pompeo's team, dating back to his tenure on Capitol Hill. Asked about the odd jobs she performed for the secretary and his wife, Pompeo told investigators that it was "perfectly fine for friends to help each other."

First, Porter did not see these tasks as helping friends. On the contrary, she told investigators she perceived these personal errands as part of her official work at the State Department.

Second, as Dan Drezner joked, "[T]his was the moment when any discerning reader must conclude that Mike Pompeo has no real friends."

As for the road ahead, by all appearances, Pompeo is likely to move forward with his 2024 presidential plans, treating these findings as trivia. And why not? It's not as if there's a recent precedent for a secretary of State seeking the nation's highest office running into trouble for failing to follow State Department guidelines, right?