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State Dept watchdog raises volume on questions surrounding Pompeo

It's very likely that Mike Pompeo desperately wants these questions to go away. With each passing revelation, that appears increasingly unlikely.
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press briefing at the State Department on May 20, 2020, in Washington.Nicholas Kamm / Pool via AP

By all appearances, May was a difficult month for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The Kansas Republican was, for example, accused of hosting a series of secret gatherings with powerful elites in which Pompeo was "essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo's political ambitions." The cabinet secretary was also accused of misusing federal resources to benefit himself and his family, and quietly adding political meetings to official trips.

But perhaps the most important development came in mid-May when Donald Trump -- late on a Friday night -- 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 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.

And because there's a Democratic House majority asking questions, this story isn't going away.

Fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick told Congress in a private interview Wednesday that before he was ousted, he had informed at least three top aides to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he was reviewing Pompeo's and his wife's use of government resources, two lawmakers told NBC News. The revelation potentially undercuts Pompeo's claim to have been unaware that Linick was looking into that issue when he asked President Donald Trump to fire Linick.

In addition to the NBC News report, the New York Times published its own article on Linick's revelations to Congress, and the report added that the inspector general accused a top State Department official of having tried to "bully" him as he examined potential misconduct.

Steve A. Linick, who was fired as inspector general last month, testified that Brian Bulatao, the under secretary of state for management, had "pressured him to act in ways" that he felt were "inappropriate," the Democrats said. That included telling Mr. Linick that he should not pursue his investigation into whether the administration had unlawfully declared an "emergency" last year to allow the resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

It's very likely that Pompeo desperately wants these questions to simply evaporate in time. With each passing revelation, that appears increasingly unlikely.