A senior State Department official suggested Monday that the department’s former inspector general, Steve Linick, was fired in part due to concerns that he was leaking to media, according to a report.
Brian Bulatao, the State Department’s undersecretary for management, told the Washington Post in an interview that concern over Linick had grown because of a “pattern of unauthorized disclosures, or leaks,” to the media about investigations that were in an early draft form.
Bulatao said officials had no evidence Linick was personally responsible for the leaks but that there was strong suspicion, which came to a head last fall with media reports about one investigation citing “two government sources involved in carrying out the investigation.”
“You know the IG is normally charged with carrying out the investigation,” Bulatao told the Post. “It certainly was a very strong finger-pointing at IG Linick’s way.”
Bulatao also said Linick had ignored the directions of then-deputy secretary of state John Sullivan to refer an investigation into the leaks to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, in order for an inspector general from an outside agency to look into it.
He said that instead, Linick picked another federal agency on his own “to pick the person he wanted to grade his own homework, which sets up a whole apparent conflict of interest.”
President Trump fired Linick on Friday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also confirmed to the Post that he asked President Trump to fire Linick because his work was “undermining” the department’s mission. Pompeo told the Post:
I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department, very consistent with what the statute says he’s supposed to be doing… . The kinds of activities he’s supposed to undertake to make us better, to improve us… .
Pompeo also said the decision was not political retaliation, because he did not know beforehand that Linick was investigating allegations that one of Pompeo’s aides was running personal errands for him.
“So it’s simply not possible for this to be an act of retaliation. End of story,” he said. He called the allegations “unsubstantiated.”
Pompeo said no reason need be given for presidential appointees such as Linick to be fired.
“The president obviously has the right to have an inspector general… . Just like every presidentially confirmed position, I can terminate them. They serve at his pleasure for any reason or no reason.”
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