State Dept whistleblower complaint raises new Pompeo concerns

A State Department official "directly witnessed" Pompeo engage in alleged misconduct and tried to report the misdeeds. That apparently didn't go well.
Image: Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press briefing at the State Department on May 20, 2020, in Washington.Nicholas Kamm / AP
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By Steve Benen

The past couple of months have done little to help Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's controversial reputation. 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.

Perhaps most importantly, when the secretary of State found himself under investigation by his department's inspector general, Pompeo arranged for the watchdog to be fired. Pressed for an explanation, the Republican's defense has fallen short.

Yesterday, the storm cloud grew more ominous. McClatchy News was the first to report:

A whistleblower complaint from a State Department employee about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s conduct, made public for the first time through a lawsuit and obtained by McClatchy, reveals that eyewitnesses made repeated attempts to inform executive leadership and legal advisers about his “questionable activities.” The whistleblower said they had additional evidence to back up their allegations against Pompeo, according to a redacted complaint to the State Department inspector general’s hotline.

“I directly witnessed much of the behavior,” the whistleblower wrote. Others, the complaint states, “tried on several occasions to obtain clarifications and guidance from senior leadership in [the executive secretariat] and from the Office of Legal Advisors, but were blocked from doing so.”

The redacted whistleblower complaint was obtained by American Oversight, a progressive non-profit organization, through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The New York Times published a related report, which helped clarify the timeline of events.

The heavily redacted version of the complaint indicates that top officials enabled misconduct by Mr. Pompeo even after the whistle-blower voiced the concerns internally -- an alleged circle of complicity that was not previously known. After encountering resistance from the department’s executive and legal offices, the whistle-blower filed the complaint with the agency’s Office of the Inspector General, which apparently prompted an investigation into misuse of taxpayer resources by Mr. Pompeo and his wife, Susan.

In other words, a State Department official "directly witnessed" Pompeo engage in alleged misconduct. This official, whose identity is not available to the public, tried to bring concerns about the secretary's alleged misdeeds to senior leaders at the cabinet agency, but they tried to shut him/her down.

The whistleblower then took the concerns to the State Department's Office of the Inspector General, which opened an investigation, at which point Mike Pompeo -- the one accused of misconduct -- arranged for Donald Trump to fire his own department's watchdog, late on a Friday night.

In a normal administration, this would be about the time the secretary of State would start updating his resume and drafting a statement about spending more time with his family. In this administration, Pompeo last week traveled to Iowa, as part of an apparent interest in seeking national elected office in the coming years.