Linick, who was fired at Pompeo’s recommendation a little over two weeks ago, participated in a virtual interview with Democratic and Republican lawmakers and select staff from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Oversight Committee, and with Democrats from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In a joint statement Wednesday evening, Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel of New York, Carolyn Maloney of New York, Gerry Connolly of Virginia and Joaquin Castro of Texas and Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said there were two ongoing investigations into Pompeo when he was fired. According to the lawmakers, Linick told top State Department officials — Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao and Deputy Secretary Steve Biegun — about the investigation into potential misuse of taxpayer resources by Pompeo and his wife. At the time of his removal, Linick was also probing whether the administration unlawfully circumvented Congress by declaring an emergency in order to sell billions of dollars in weapons, including to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
“Linick testified that he was ‘shocked’ when he found out he was being fired, that his removal came without any warning from President Trump or Secretary Pompeo, and that the Administration’s after-the-fact justifications are ‘either misplaced or unfounded,’ ” their statement said.
Linick noted his “close to 28 years” of public service, in which he had “served without regard to politics, having been nominated as an inspector general by Presidents from both parties,” according to the prepared remarks.
“Every minute of my work at (the Federal Housing Finance Agency) and the Department of State has been devoted to promoting the efficiency and effectiveness of both agencies, along with ensuring that taxpayer funds are protected against waste, fraud, and abuse,” Linick said.
“In carrying out my work, I have always taken the facts and evidence wherever they lead and have been faithfully committed to conducting independent and impartial oversight, as required by law,” he said.
Republicans from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not participate in the hearing. Two congressional aides said none of the Republican Senate committee members or their staffers who had been invited showed up for the interview.
“SFRC majority staff wasn’t consulted in the planning of this interview or process, and is not taking part,” one of the aides said.
Although Linick did not directly address his firing in the prepared statement, he did speak to his body of work in his time as inspector general at the State Department, noting that his office “issued nearly 700 reports, resulting in thousands of recommendations to strengthen the Department’s operations and to protect the lives of people who work in or visit our posts and embassies abroad.”
“We investigated numerous cases of alleged wrongdoing, resulting in a range of outcomes dictated only by the facts — from administrative actions to exonerations to criminal convictions. We identified monetary savings for taxpayers of close to $2 billion,” he planned to say. “Our independent oversight of the Department has been the key to our success and has helped improve the Department’s programs in a transparent way.”
Pompeo has been largely evasive about the specific reasons he recommended President Donald Trump fire Linick, but has said multiple times he should have done so sooner.
“He was acting in a way that was deeply inconsistent with what the State Department was trying to do. His office was leaking information,” Pompeo claimed in an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News. “He was investigating policies he simply didn’t like.”
An investigation by the Pentagon inspector general found no evidence that Linick or anyone in his office shared information with the media about a probe into the State Department, two sources familiar with the investigation told CNN. It is unclear to what polices the top US diplomat was referring in his assertion.
A Republican aide on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told CNN that Republicans on the committee will be looking into the Defense Department inspector general’s probe of supposed leaks from Linick’s office. The aide said that it appeared Democrats on the committees had detailed information about Linick’s investigations and Republicans did not. Linick also answered more questions asked by Republicans than Democrats during the hearing, the GOP aide said.
The GOP aide said the committee found it odd that Linick did not turn over the finding of the Defense Department inspector general’s report to his superiors after the investigation was finished and that he didn’t answer questions as to why.
“We are still investigating this, but from what we have seen so far, it appears that President Trump was well within his rights to terminate IG Linick,” the aide told CNN.
Pompeo has said that his recommendation to fire Linick was not retaliatory.
Ahead of Linick’s interview Wednesday, Bulatao wrote to Linick’s lawyer to remind him not to disclose classified or privileged information. Bulatao also suggested that Linick request the assistance of the State Department counsel to ensure that the “equities and records of the Department of State are adequately protected.” Linick had not done that, Bulatao said.
Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opened an investigation into Linick’s firing in the days following his late-night removal.
Engel, Menendez and Maloney, the House Oversight chairwoman, announced they were expanding their inquiry last week and seeking transcribed interviews with officials “who may have knowledge about Inspector General Linick’s firing and how the State Department Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) ongoing work may have influenced Secretary Pompeo’s recommendation that the President fire Linick.”
A State Department spokesperson said last week “the Department is carefully reviewing various requests for information, records, and interviews with State Department personnel, and is committed to engaging in good faith discussions with the Chairman concerning these requests.”