State Dept faces subpoenas on competing Pompeo controversies

In two unrelated controversies, Pompeo's State Department isn't answering House Democrats' questions. New subpoenas are intended to help resolve the matter
Image: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, on July 15, 2020.Andrew Harnik / AFP - Getty Images
By Steve Benen

Late on a Friday night in May, Donald Trump fired the State Department's inspector general, and when pressed, the president said he ousted the independent watchdog, Steve Linick, at the behest of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

This was controversial for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the inspector general was investigating possible Pompeo misconduct when the cabinet secretary helped arrange for Linick's firing.

House Democrats have asked plenty of questions about what transpired, but they haven't received much from the State Department. As the Associated Press reported yesterday, the department's obstinacy didn't sit well with Democratic lawmakers.

House Democrats have subpoenaed four top aides to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying that the Trump administration is stonewalling their investigation into the firing of the State Department's top independent watchdog earlier this year.... Democrats announced Monday that they had subpoenaed the officials because they were "refusing to negotiate in good faith" and talk to the committee.

Note, Linick spoke to lawmakers in June, and reportedly said in private interviews that he informed top aides to Pompeo that the secretary was facing an investigation. The inspector general also reportedly said a top State Department official tried to "bully" him during his examinations into the secretary's alleged misdeeds.

Naturally, this led lawmakers to take an interest to what some of these officials had to say for themselves. They weren't cooperative, so House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) issued subpoenas for Brian Bulatao, the undersecretary of State for management, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mike Miller, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marik String, and senior adviser Toni Porter.

The State Department hasn't yet said whether they'll comply.

And in case this weren't quite enough, let's also note that these House subpoenas come on the heels of an entirely different round of subpoenas for the State Department, which came late last week. The Associated Press also reported:

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents he turned over to a Senate panel that is investigating Hunter Biden, a son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Committee Chair Eliot Engel said Friday he had issued the subpoena as part of an investigation into Pompeo's "apparent use of Department of State resources to advance a political smear of former Vice President Joe Biden."

This is a weird one. Apparently, Senate Republicans, looking for dirt they could use against former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign, asked the State Department to provide them with a series of documents related to Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Ukraine. Pompeo complied, delivering more than 16,000 pages of records to GOP senators.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee asked for the same materials, so its members would know what the State Department was sharing with lawmakers, but according to the panel's Democratic leaders, Pompeo's office balked: Senate Republicans could see the documents, but House Democrats couldn't.

So, Committee Chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) on Friday issued a subpoena for the materials. The deadline for compliance is this Friday.