June 23 (UPI) — House Democrats Eliot Engel and Carolyn Maloney announced they have scheduled a slew of interviews with top members of the State Department as they investigate President Donald Trump’s firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
Trump fired Linick in mid-May, stating the 2013 Obama appointee no longer had his “fullest confidence” and would be replaced within 30 days by Stephen Akard, director of the Office of Foreign Missions.
Linick was one of five inspector generals critical of the Trump administration to be fired or removed over the past few months, and shortly after it occurred, House and Senate Democrats launched several related investigations into the matter.
After Linick was fired, Engel accused Trump of attempting to protect “one of his most loyal supporters” in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom Linick was investigating over allegations he used a staffer for personal matters and concerning a more than $8 billion Saudi arms deal.
“The American people deserve to hear the truth about why the president fired one of the government’s independent watchdogs at Secretary Pompeo’s urging,” Engel and Maloney said in a joint statement on Monday.
Those who have been scheduled to give depositions are “key witnesses” to either Linick’s firing or knew about his office’s work, or both, they said.
In a separate statement, the Democrats announced that Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao has agreed to testify before the full House committee, stating he has emerged as “a central figure” in Linick’s removal.
Linick testified early this month that Bulatao, a close friend of the United States’ top diplomat, was aware of his office’s investigations into Pompeo and had bullied and argued with him over his investigation into the 2019 emergency declaration that expedited the multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Late last month, Pompeo rejected the notion Linick was fired for investigating him.
“His office was investigating policies he simply didn’t like. That’s not the role of an inspector general,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News. “This didn’t have anything to do with retaliation. This was about an IG who was attempting to undermine the mission of the United States State Department. That’s unacceptable.”
Engel said they were “glad” Bulatao agreed to testify as they had requested for July 2.
“I look forward to his testimony, and I encourage the administration to make available the other witnesses we’ve requested,” Engel said.
The other State Department officials scheduled are Lisa Kenna, executive secretary, on June 29; Mike Miller, deputy assistant secretary for Defense Trade of the Bureau of Political Military Affairs, on July 8; Toni Porter, senior adviser, on July 10; Marik String, former deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Political Military Affairs, on July 22; Charles Faulkner, former principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Legislative Affairs, on July 24; and R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Political Military Affairs.