Pompeo denies impropriety in firing of State Dept. watchdog

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint briefing, Thursday, June 11, 2020 at the State Department in Washington, on an executive order signed by President Donald Trump aimed at the International Criminal Court. Trump has lobbed a broadside attack against the International Criminal Court. He's authorizing economic sanctions and travel restrictions against court workers directly involved in investigating American troops and intelligence officials for possible war crimes in Afghanistan without U.S. consent. The executive order Trump signed on Thursday marks his administrations latest attack against international organizations, treaties and agreements that do not hew to its policies.  (Yuri Gripas/Pool via AP)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint briefing, Thursday, June 11, 2020 at the State Department in Washington, on an executive order signed by President Donald Trump aimed at the International Criminal Court. Trump has lobbed a broadside attack against the International Criminal Court. He's authorizing economic sanctions and travel restrictions against court workers directly involved in investigating American troops and intelligence officials for possible war crimes in Afghanistan without U.S. consent. The executive order Trump signed on Thursday marks his administrations latest attack against international organizations, treaties and agreements that do not hew to its policies. (Yuri Gripas/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his top deputy are rejecting allegations that the State Department’s independent watchdog was fired for investigating alleged impropriety by Pompeo and his wife.

In separate letters sent to Congress late Thursday, Pompeo and Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun denied suggestions that Pompeo was aware of any such probe by ousted inspector general Steve Linick or his office.

Pompeo also denied that Linick was removed for no cause, accusing him of “strange and erratic behavior” and failing to do his job over many months. Pompeo also said Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao is willing to testify to the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the circumstances of Linick’s ouster on June 22 or 23.

“I need an inspector general working every day to improve State Department operations and efficiency,” Pompeo wrote in one letter to committee chairman Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. “Mr. Linick was not that person.”

Pompeo also took a political shot at Engel, who is facing a difficult Democratic primary in his home district. “I hear you've been busy in your district, so let me get you up to speed on what's been happening in your committee,” he wrote, with a footnote referring to a news report that said Engel is “fighting for his political survival.”

Engel responded by saying he was “puzzled why Secretary Pompeo’s letter includes so many errors, but I’m glad that the department is moving toward what the committees requested weeks ago: allowing Mr. Bulatao to speak on the record about the firing of Inspector General Linick.”

He added, “We look forward to hearing from Mr. Bulatao and all the other witnesses involved in this fiasco.”

Pompeo has said President Donald Trump fired Linick at his recommendation, and Democrats have suggested his ouster was personally and politically motivated. Pompeo adamantly denied that and called Engel's suggestions that he wanted Linick fired to cover up impropriety a “nasty insinuation” aimed at “misleading” the American people.