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Pompeo asks for new investigation into ousted State Department watchdog

Pompeo asks for new investigation into ousted State Department watchdog
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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit King of Jordan becomes first Arab leader to speak with President-elect Biden Central Asia is changing: the Biden administration should pay close attention MORE on Wednesday said he has requested a new investigation into whether ousted State Department Inspector General Steve Linick leaked reports to the press.

Linick, who was fired last month by President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE and at the request of Pompeo, had earlier been cleared of such allegations by an independent investigation.

But House Republicans, part of a Democratic probe into circumstances surrounding Linick’s ousting, have homed in on whether Linick had earlier acted improperly in his efforts to provide accountability over the leaked report.

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Charges of leaking to the press are one of several examples Pompeo has used to justify his push for Linick’s ousting.

“Steve Linick was a bad actor in the inspector general’s office here, he didn’t take on the mission of the State Department to make us better,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department during a combative press conference.

“With respect to the leak, there is still work going on, I don't want to comment on it, other than to say that we have asked for a more thorough investigation than Mr. Linick had permitted.”

Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao on Tuesday sent a letter to a panel of independent inspectors general asking for a new investigation into the leaking of an inspector general report detailing political retaliation at the agency was provided to media, specifically referring to a September article in The Daily Beast.

Pompeo on Wednesday said the leak was “designed to destroy the career of a professional State Department official.”

The leaked inspector general report had highlighted the role of Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative on Iran, who at the time was the director of policy planning and responsible for terminating a career employee in that office on baseless accusations of political loyalties.

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Linick at the time had recommended Pompeo take disciplinary action against people involved in the discrimination against the wrongly terminated State Department employee but did not identify individuals.

The IG report at the time said the State Department agreed with recommendations to consider discipline for officials involved in the retaliatory firing, but it’s unclear what measures were taken.

Pompeo on Wednesday said the leak “almost certainly” came from Linick’s office.

“We asked him to investigate in a certain way. He refused to do that,” Pompeo said. “And that's inappropriate, and we still don't as a result of that know the answer for precisely how that information got out. We're determined to figure out how that information escaped, which was aimed at harming someone here.”

Pompeo has justified his recommendation to oust Linick as getting rid of an employee who was undermining the mission of the State Department.

Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs and House Oversight and Reform committees, along with the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are conducting an investigation into Linick’s firing and whether it amounted to an act of political retaliation.

A transcript of an interview conducted with Linick about his firing detailed a strained relationship with Bulatao, saying the under secretary had at times attempted to “bully” him over investigations and didn’t appear to understand the independent nature of the watchdog.

Bulatao is a close ally of the secretary  the two were classmates at West Point and co-founders of a defense manufacturing business. Bulatao served under Pompeo when he was chief of the CIA and later joined the State Department, confirmed by the Senate.

Republican lawmakers who are apart of the investigation have pushed back on Democrats' assertions and focused on whether Linick acted appropriately in instigating a review over whether he or anyone in his office leaked the inspector general report to the press.

GOP members said Linick’s personal request for the investigation and instructions to keep it “limited” have raised questions of the independent nature.

House Democrats released on Wednesday as part of their investigation a copy of the independent probe into whether Linick or anyone in his office leaked information to the press.

The investigation, led by the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General's Defense Criminal Investigative Service, concluded in March that there was “no evidence” that Linick nor 14 employees with access to the report leaked it to the press.