Michael Pompeo is defending the firing of the State Department’s inspector general but
refuses to give any details, fuelling questions about probes the watchdog was conducting and demonstrating anew the secretary of state’s distaste for explaining controversial decisions publicly.
A defiant Pompeo said at a news conference that he wished he’d asked President Donald Trump to dismiss Inspector General Steve Linick sooner, but declined to give a specific reason, saying he wouldn’t discuss personnel issues.
The lack of an explanation has prompted Democrats to point out the different inquiries Linick had underway that could have embarrassed Pompeo.
Pompeo — who as a lawmaker famously berated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for supposed cover-ups and lack of transparency — dismissed the accusations as “all crazy stuff” and denied the ouster of Linick was retaliation for
“The firing of the inspector general without any really serious attempt to put forward an explanation for that begs the question of what Secretary Pompeo is hiding,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“He’s undercutting any possibility of oversight and accountability in getting to the bottom of the issues.”
The dust-up has thrust America’s top diplomat back into the spotlight over his leadership style, an issue that last came to the fore when he refused to publicly defend Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post as the US ambassador to Ukraine after she was the subject of a smear campaign by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
The latest moves uncorked a fresh torrent of criticism for a secretary whose standing has taken a hit among career diplomats because of broader concerns, including his use of department resources for what appear to be domestic political purposes and his unbridled partisanship.
During the brief news conference, Pompeo also flashed the temper that drew wide attention in January when he lashed out in an expletive-filled exchange at an NPR reporter who questioned him repeatedly about Yovanovitch’s firing.