National Security

Democrats subpoena top aides to Pompeo

House Democrats on Monday subpoenaed four top aides to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a sign they are pressing forward with their joint investigation into the firing of former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

The top Democrats on three congressional committees are seeking to hear from Brian Bulatao, a close ally to Pompeo who serves as the under secretary of State for management; Pompeo senior adviser Toni Porter; acting State Department legal adviser Marik String; and Michael Miller, who serves as deputy assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs.

“The Administration continues to cover up the real reasons for Mr. Linick’s firing by stonewalling the Committees’ investigation and refusing to engage in good faith,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, in a joint statement.

“That stonewalling has made today’s subpoenas necessary, and the Committees will continue to pursue this investigation to uncover the truth that the American people deserve,” the lawmakers said.

Democrats want to hear from the State Department officials as they seek to investigate the circumstances of Linick’s firing earlier this year, which came as he was looking into Pompeo and his wife’s use of government resources for personal errands as well as an arms deal to Saudi Arabia. 

President Trump later revealed that he fired Linick at the recommendation of Pompeo, who has denied Linick was fired in retaliation for his investigative pursuits. Democrats have pledged to examine the circumstances surrounding Linick’s removal.

Bulatao, whose ties to Pompeo date back to their time at West Point, is the most high-profile of the subpoena recipients. He was slated to testify before the House Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees in early July, but the joint hearing was postponed to allow for the State Department to review and release the inspector general’s report about the Saudi arms sales declaration.

Linick previously testified that Bulatao had at times attempted to “bully” him about the investigations.

“We had a number of disagreements about the way in which a leak investigation was going to be handled,” Linick testified in June.

“He wanted to sort of take control over a leak investigation that was being conducted by the [Department of Defense inspector general]. So that’s one example of that. The other has to do with the work we were doing on the arms control, in trying to have us not work on that matter, stating that it was a policy matter and it was not within our jurisdiction to look at it. So that was sort of the nature of that attempt to bully.”

Pompeo’s allies have argued that Linick’s ouster stemmed from factors including claims that there were leaks from his office — even though a Defense Department inspector general investigation had already cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Democrats are also looking to interview String, who was appointed in May 2019 after previously serving as senior adviser to then-deputy secretary of State John Sullivan — who left his post in December to become U.S. ambassador to Russia.

On Monday, Democrats also released selected highlights — in summary form — from an interview with former State Department official Charles Faulkner, in which he claimed that String was tied to the Saudi arms deal being probed by Linick.

Democrats say Faulkner, who used to work in the department’s legislative affairs bureau, testified that String “identified an ‘authority’ in the law ‘that allow[ed] for an emergency declaration of arms transfers,’” according to the interview summary.

Democratic lawmakers had earlier raised concerns that String’s announced promotion came on May 24, 2019, the same day the administration announced it would move forward on the arms sales.

In Linick’s June testimony, he alleged that String, along with Bulatao, bullied him for seeking to investigate the matter into the Saudi arms sale, in claiming that such a matter fell outside of the inspector general’s purview.

Porter, who was also subpoenaed, is an aide believed to be involved in the investigation over Pompeo’s alleged misuse of State Department resources for personal errands, according to reports.

Linick in June refused to answer questions from Democratic lawmakers about Porter’s role at the State Department, saying he didn’t want to comment on the question for fears of “getting into matters involving our investigation.” He did not identify any probe.

Democrats are also seeking to hear from Miller, who was appointed to his current position as deputy assistant secretary in February.

Miller is a career civil servant with a focus on the intersection of arms sales, counter terrorism and foreign policy in the Middle East. He had an early posting in Tripoli and once served as acting deputy assistant secretary for defense trade and regional security, according to his biography on the State Department’s website.

The House Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees are also slated to hear from Lisa Kenna, a former State Department executive secretary who was recently nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Peru, in a transcribed interview on Friday.

Updated at 1:49 p.m.

Tags arms sales Bob Menendez Carolyn Maloney Donald Trump Eliot Engel House Foreign Affairs Committee House Oversight and Reform Committee Inspector General Investigation libya Mike Pompeo Saudi Arabia Senate Foreign Relations Committee State Department State Department Subpoena Tripoli

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