Pompeo on IG firing: 'Frankly should have done it some time ago'

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoChinese state media: Wuhan conducted 6.5 million coronavirus tests in 9 days The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans debate life under COVID-19 risks The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE on Wednesday doubled down on his request to fire the State Department's internal watchdog, while also refusing to detail his reason for recommending the move.

“Frankly should have done it some time ago,” Pompeo said during a combative briefing with reporters at the State Department, referring to his request.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 MORE notified Congress late Friday evening of his intention to dismiss State Department Inspector General (IG) Steve Linick, who was appointed in 2013 under President Obama, because he had lost confidence in the watchdog.

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Democrats rebuked the move, criticizing it as political retaliation and raising the question of whether Pompeo had pushed for the IG’s firing to obstruct at least two investigations.

Trump told reporters after he terminated Linick that he had done so on Pompeo’s recommendation and didn’t know the man, saying that he was an Obama appointee was reason enough to call for his termination.

Pompeo on Wednesday denied any knowledge of investigations being undertaken by Linick, saying charges of political retaliation are “patently false.”

“I’ve seen the various stories that someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner, I mean, it’s just crazy,” he said.

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Democrats have raised the issue that the IG was looking into the secretary’s alleged misuse of a political appointee to run personal errands like walking his dog, picking up his dry cleaning and making dinner reservations for the Pompeos, allegations that were first reported by NBC news.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOpen Skies withdrawal throws nuclear treaty into question The Memo: Trump agenda rolls on amid pandemic State Department scrutiny threatens Pompeo's political ambitions MORE (D-N.Y.) said the IG was also finishing a report on whether the president illegally used an emergency declaration to sell billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia, and a Democratic aide said this report was tied to the IG's firing.

The secretary on Wednesday did say that he had participated in one investigation by submitting written answers to questions but that he didn’t know the scope of the investigation and the questions were asked “sometime earlier this year.”

Pompeo refused to detail why he thought Linick was "undermining" the State Department's mission, a reason he had given to The Washington Post earlier in the week fir the firing, and instead said he doesn’t talk about personnel matters. He said he’ll share with the appropriate people the rationale behind his push to dismiss Linick.

The secretary also refused to answer whether he would cooperate with an investigation launched by the top Democrats in the House and Senate overseeing foreign relations, Engel and Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Senate chairman schedules vote on Trump nominee under investigation MORE (D-N.J.), on the reasons behind Linick’s firing.

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The lawmakers have asked the State Department to hand over any documents or information related to Linick’s dismissal by Friday.

Pompeo criticized Menendez for the senator's past legal troubles.

“This is all coming through the office of Sen. Menendez. I don’t get my ethics guidance from a man who was criminally prosecuted, case number 15-155, New Jersey, federal district court,” the secretary said, referring to a case against the Democratic senator alleging that he took bribes in return for political favors. The case was dismissed in January 2018 after resulting in a hung jury.

“That’s not someone who I look to for ethics guidance,” Pompeo said, and abruptly ended the press conference.