However high aides to Pompeo have expressed fury over the probe and its findings. One wrote a rebuttal that accuses investigators of structuring the report in a approach that enables “partisan actors” to “torture, twist and contort the report back to indicate that the secretary and division by some means did one thing improper.”
The response underscores the more and more toxic relationship between Pompeo and the inspector basic’s workplace. Pompeo, who can be out of workplace by the point Joe Biden is inaugurated as president on Jan. 20, not solely pushed out the inspector basic, Steve Linick, he’s additionally refused to totally cooperate with investigations into him and his spouse in addition to different probes.
Pompeo has frequently ignored or dismissed recommendations by the inspector general’s office to reprimand aides accused of wrongdoing. He’s additionally complained that the inspector basic’s workplace hasn’t been in sync with what he sees because the State Division’s mission, regardless that that workplace is meant to behave as an impartial watchdog.
The brand new report focuses on slim questions involving Susan Pompeo’s touring along with her husband on a number of of his official journeys. It was prompted by a whistleblower’s criticism, in accordance with the inspector basic’s workplace. (A second investigation into the Pompeos’ use of taxpayer resources has been held up as a result of Mike Pompeo refuses to be interviewed.)
Investigators discovered that on a minimum of eight events between April 2018 and April 2020, Susan Pompeo traveled with Mike Pompeo in a “representational,” or official, capability. That meant she was not required to reimburse prices of the journey and was eligible to obtain workers assist in the course of the journey.
Primarily based on steering from the State Division authorized adviser’s workplace and the Overseas Affairs Handbook, a compilation of guidelines governing division staffers, investigators sought to find out whether or not two paperwork had been ready for every occasion of journey. One doc laid out the justification for permitting Susan Pompeo to journey in an official capability; the opposite was supposed to indicate that a licensed official had accepted the journey.
For all eight journeys, State Division officers had been capable of present paperwork that in a technique or one other supplied justification for allowing Susan Pompeo to journey in an official capability to locations starting from Bangkok to Baghdad.
When it got here to approval paperwork, nonetheless, the State Division was capable of present such supplies for under two of the eight journeys.
Based on the report, Undersecretary of State for Administration Brian Bulatao — a longtime friend and former business partner of Mike Pompeo’s — advised investigators he had verbally accepted 4 of the opposite six journeys. At one level, he mentioned he had by no means been advised he wanted to doc the approvals. (Bulatao’s workplace additionally initially mentioned he wasn’t concerned however later acknowledged that was incorrect.)
For 2 of the journeys, the inspector basic’s workplace “couldn’t decide both by means of its doc overview or interviews whether or not an acceptable division official accepted the journeys.”
The report makes clear that its advice for higher documentation is a matter of following tips and ideas designed “for inner management and recordkeeping functions.” It doesn’t allege that anybody violated any legal guidelines.
The investigators additionally clarify they “didn’t assess” whether or not the justifications supplied for permitting Susan Pompeo to journey in an official capability had been truthful. It was not clear precisely why the investigators prevented tackling that thorny situation, nevertheless it may have been a matter of time, sources, or just a hesitation to second-guess rationales supplied by folks extra attuned to diplomatic cross-currents.
In a prolonged rebuttal included within the general report, State Division Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl — one other longtime buddy of Mike Pompeo’s who acts as his de facto chief of workers — questions the very level and foundation of the investigation.
Brechbuhl slams the inspector basic’s workplace for not stating upfront that “there was no violation of any regulation or statute” nor “any regulation” nor even “any Overseas Affairs Handbook provision.”
Brechbuhl additionally writes that he’s assuming that the unique whistleblower’s criticism alleged that the division wasn’t approved to pay for Susan Pompeo’s journey or that her journey was by some means “not in compliance with the regulation.” Neither of this stuff is true, Brechbuhl asserts, and “that, it appears apparent, ought to have been the top of the investigation.”
The inspector basic’s report doesn’t element precisely what the whistleblower’s criticism talked about. Regardless, Brechbuhl alleges that the watchdog workplace “should have determined to interpret and modify the whistleblower criticism” to be about administrative directives or different division steering.
“The [Office of the Inspector General] then determined to make use of that ‘made up’ criticism to provoke an investigation of its selecting,” Brechbuhl alleges, with zero proof.
A few of Brechbuhl’s allegations had been echoed in an announcement issued by the State Division spokesperson’s workplace as this text was about to publish. The assertion accused the inspector basic’s workplace, media and Democrats in Congress of losing time on “fraudulent“ investigations into the Pompeos, and mentioned they owed the couple apologies.
In response, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the rating Democrat on the Senate Overseas Relations Committee, accused State Division leaders of displaying “nothing however disdain for reputable oversight.”
“The division’s response to a routine train of impartial oversight demonstrates how the Trump administration has by no means fairly grasped the basic position that inspectors basic play in holding businesses accountable to the regulation and the American taxpayer,“ Menendez mentioned in an announcement.
In his rebuttal, Brechbuhl additional asserts that the steering contained within the Overseas Affairs Handbook covers U.S. diplomats and different underlings of the secretary of State, not the secretary nor his spouse.
It is a matter of some ambiguity acknowledged by the inspector basic’s workplace. However investigators additionally famous that the State Division authorized adviser had supplied steering to officers coping with the Pompeos’ journey that usually adopted the Overseas Affairs Handbook.
Brechbuhl, who has written similar rebuttals to other inspector general reports, argued that even when the Overseas Affairs Handbook steering was relevant, State Division officers hadn’t essentially carried out something flawed. In a single occasion, he asserts, the guide, “solely says that such submitting ‘ought to’ be made — that’s permissive, not mandated.”
Nonetheless, Brechbuhl acknowledges that, earlier in 2020, the State Division authorized adviser additionally had beneficial to higher-ups that they doc the choices round such journey. “We agree with the [legal adviser’s] steering and the [inspector general’s office] suggestions,” Brechbuhl writes.
He then proceeds to as soon as once more slam the investigation.
“Given this work resulted solely in a seat of suggestions on purely administrative issues, division management wonders why the [inspector general’s office] wasted each time (its, in addition to that of many division officers) and sources writing a report,” Brechbuhl states. “Wouldn’t it not have been higher to have merely approached division management in a collaborative method and mentioned these considerations?”