Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday confirmed that he submitted written answers to questions from the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General before recommending the inspector general be fired.
Pompeo, however, denied that he was retaliating against State Department Inspector General Steve Linick when he recommended his termination to President Donald Trump last week. The president fired Linick on Friday.
“There are claims that this was for retaliation for some investigation that the inspector general’s office here was engaged in,” Pompeo said during a press briefing Wednesday. “That’s patently false. I have no sense of what investigations were taking place here inside the inspector general’s office.”
But there’s “one exception,” Pompeo added. He said he responded to a series of questions in writing “with respect to a particular investigation” sometime earlier this year. He did not specify how long ago.
“I don’t know the scope,” Pompeo said. “I don’t know the nature of that investigation other than what I would have seen from the nature of the questions that I was presented. I did what was right. I don’t know if that is continuing. I don’t know if that investigation has been closed out.”
Echoing Trump’s remarks during a press briefing earlier this week, Pompeo said he should have recommended Linick’s termination “some time ago.”
Prior to his dismissal, Linick’s office had reportedly launched a series of investigations into Pompeo, including one related to an unorthodox arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo has said he did not know he was under investigation when he recommended Linick’s firing. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported this week that Pompeo had declined to sit for an interview with the inspector general’s office.
The State Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Pompeo said this week that Linick was undermining the State Department’s mission, but both he and Trump have refused to provide examples to back up their claim. The president said Monday that he doesn’t “know anything” about Linick other than Pompeo wanted him removed as inspector general.
“I guess they were not happy with the job he’s doing or something,” Trump said. “Because it is my right to do it, I said sure, I’ll do it.”
Asked to elaborate on the reasons behind Linick’s firing, Pompeo refused.
“Unlike others, I don’t talk about personnel matters,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t leak to y’all. ... We’ll share with the appropriate people the rationale.”
Both Republicans and Democrats have demanded answers over Linick’s firing. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the most senior Republican in the Senate, has asked Trump to “provide a detailed reasoning” by no later than June 1 for the removal of Linick. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that Pompeo should testify before Congress, calling Linick’s firing “scandalous.”
House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) revealed Monday that Linick’s office was investigating the Trump administration’s effort to sell arms to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval. The Trump administration invoked a rarely used emergency provision last year to force through the $8.1 billion sale.
The inspector general’s office was also reportedly investigating whether Pompeo had a political aide run personal errands for him, including walking his dog and picking up his dry cleaning.
“It’s all crazy stuff,” Pompeo said of the reports Wednesday. “I didn’t have access to that information so it would have been impossible to retaliate.”
Watch Pompeo’s full press briefing below. His comments about Linick’s firing begin around the 2:05:15 mark.