Pompeo aide set to testify on ouster of agency watchdog
A top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will testify before House lawmakers next week about the ousting of the State Department’s inspector general, a top Democrat announced Monday.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao will appear before lawmakers on July 2.
Bulatao has emerged as a key figure in the ousting of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was fired last month by President Trump at the request of Pompeo.
“The American people deserve to know the truth about why the President sacked one of our government’s independent watchdogs,” Engel said in a statement.
Pompeo has defended the firing by saying Linick was a “bad actor” who undermined the mission of the State Department. The secretary has added that Linick refused to take his direction on investigations.
Engel on Monday said the reasons given by Pompeo and other senior officials amount to “smears and conspiracy theories.”
Linick’s ouster sparked bipartisan condemnation for threatening the independence of agency watchdogs. At the time, it was the fourth watchdog firing within two months.
But Democrats are concerned Linick’s firing was an act of political retaliation, with the inspector general looking into at least two investigations involving the secretary.
This includes whether the secretary and his wife misused federal funds and the secretary’s role in justifying Trump’s executive order to sell more than $8 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan without the approval of Congress.
Bulatao, along with Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun, delivered the news to Linick late on a Friday evening that he was fired. As under secretary of State for management, he was the official with the most contact with Linick about investigations.
Linick testified in front of House lawmakers that Bulatao attempted to bully him over the arms deal investigation and that the under secretary was aware of investigations into the secretary and his wife.
Pompeo has denied he was aware of any investigations before Linick’s ouster, despite answering written questions for an investigation earlier this year.
Biegun wrote in a letter to House lawmakers that neither he, Bulatao nor other senior officials ever told Pompeo about investigations related to the secretary of State and his wife.
Engel and other Democratic lawmakers are also considering whether to call Biegun to testify.
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