Accusations Against Pompeo Pile Up After IG Dismissal
The phrase “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” is often attributed apocryphally to former U.S. President Harry Truman. For U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, having a dog may be causing him to lose friends—as accusations of malfeasance start to mount.
Pompeo was already the subject of a whistleblower complaint to Congress in July, when he was charged with tasking diplomatic security with frivolous errands like collecting his dog from the groomer and picking up Chinese takeout (agents complained about being treated as “Uber Eats with guns”). After U.S. President Donald Trump fired the State Department Inspector General Steve Linick last Friday, the question immediately turned to why he was dismissed.
The dismissal appears to be politically motivated. A Democratic congressional aide told Foreign Policy reporters Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch that Linick was investigating Pompeo for “misuse of a political appointee at the Department to perform personal tasks” for himself and his wife.
On Monday, more accusations surfaced. The Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, said Linick was pursuing a second investigation, at Engel’s request: looking at the decision to sell $8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia even as a bipartisan coalition in Congress objected.
“We don’t have the full picture yet, but it’s troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed,” Engel said in a statement to Foreign Policy.
What has Pompeo said? In an interview with the Washington Post, Pompeo said he fired Linick because he was “undermining” the State Department’s mission. He said the move was not a retaliation and denied knowing of any investigations the inspector general was undertaking.
President Trump has defended Pompeo, dismissing the allegations as unimportant. “And now I have you telling me about dog walking, washing dishes and, you know what, I’d rather have him on the phone with some world leader than have him wash dishes because maybe his wife isn’t there or his kids aren’t there, you know,” Trump said.
Under the IG Reform Act, the bar for dismissing an inspector general is high. Sen. Charles Grassley sent a letter to Trump remind him that “an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements” of the law. Grassley has asked Trump to provide a “detailed reasoning” of the decision to remove Linick before June 1.
Is Pompeo really in the doghouse? Like all cabinet secretaries, Pompeo serves at the pleasure of the president, and can only really be removed by the president. As FP has reported before, Pompeo has been especially adept at executing Trump’s agenda at the State Department—most recently as an attack dog in the war of words with China—so it’s unlikely Trump will sour on him.
It’s remotely possible that Pompeo could be impeached, but it would require the Republican-controlled Senate to strike the knockout blow—a highly unlikely scenario, given that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly tried to recruit Pompeo into his ranks as the next senator from Kansas.
In a sign that perhaps shows the confidence Pompeo has in his own longevity, he posted a photo of himself on Sunday sitting smiling on his porch steps: In his arms was Mercer, his new puppy.