Democrats press Pompeo for details on IG firing, 'Madison Dinners'

Democrats press Pompeo for details on IG firing, 'Madison Dinners'

Top House Democrats on Thursday asked Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoMurkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump Pepper spray fired during Tiananmen Square memorial in Hong Kong The Hill's 12:30 Report: NYT publishes controversial Tom Cotton op-ed MORE for details surrounding the dismissal of State Department watchdog Steve Linick and the dinners he hosted using the agency's diplomatic dining rooms.

While urging that Linick be reinstated immediately, the Democrats asked the State Department to provide information surrounding the removal of Linick and an evaluation of his replacement by June 4.

Pompeo has stated that he recommended to the president that Linick be fired, which came as Pompeo was reportedly the subject of watchdog investigations into his authorization of a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia as well as whether he misused a political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife such as picking up dry cleaning and walking their dog.

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Pompeo has denied that Linick was fired out of retribution, instead pointing to allegations of leaks coming from the watchdog's office. 

But Democrats, including Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyFired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Ousted watchdog says he told top State aides about Pompeo probe Overnight Health Care: White House shifts focus from coronavirus | House Democrats seek information on coronavirus vaccine contracts | Governors detail frustrations with Trump over COVID-19 supplies MORE (D-N.Y.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelEngel says he refuses to seek NYT endorsement over Cotton op-ed The Hill's Campaign Report: Republicans go on the hunt for new convention site The Hill's Morning Report - Floyd eulogies begin; Trump-Esper conflict emerges MORE (D-N.Y.), indicated they aren't sold on his denial.

"It appears that you may have taken this step because the Inspector General’s office has been investigating your actions as Secretary, including allegations that you improperly directed appointees to perform personal tasks, as well as your role in the President’s decision to sell billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia last year under an emergency declaration," they wrote.

They also raised concern about Stephen Akard serving as the department's acting inspector general, questioning whether he has the investigative experience and independence to conduct the watchdog role successfully. In particular, they objected to him simultaneously serving as the director of the Office of Foreign Missions and the acting inspector general, which they said creates a conflict of interest with Akard still reporting to Pompeo.

"Ambassador Akard would have an inherent conflict of interest that would prohibit him from having the independence necessary to conduct fair and rigorous oversight of the Department and of your actions," they wrote. "This environment could severely chill whistleblower disclosures to the Office of Inspector General because whistleblowers might fear that their identity could become known to an official still reporting to you."

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They separately sent a letter to Akard asking him to resign, or resign from his role at the Foreign Missions Office, while requesting information about his experience and whether he has modified any investigations since he began the interim role.

The Democrats also pressed for information about reports detailing a "series of lavish dinners that you have been hosting with prominent Republican officials, commentators, and public figures — all at taxpayer expense," they wrote. 

Democrats say they want the list of guests who attended his "Madison Dinners," the cost of the food and service, as well as the ethic guidance he may have received about such gatherings.