June 10, 2020 / 1:49 PM / a month ago

Pompeo declined interview on Saudi arms sale, fired inspector general says

FILE PHOTO: U.S. State Department Inspector General Steve Linick departs after briefing House and Senate Intelligence committees at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A State Department inspector general fired by President Donald Trump last month told lawmakers that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would not sit for an interview about the decision to justify arms sales to Saudi Arabia by declaring a “national emergency,” according to a transcript released on Wednesday.

The inspector general, Steve Linick, was fired on May 15, the latest in a series of government watchdogs dismissed by the president. Members of Congress, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, are concerned that the dismissals will prevent adequate oversight of the government.

Democrats launched an investigation, including an interview of Linick conducted on June 3 by members of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees and Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Inspectors general are charged with preventing fraud and abuse.

In the congressional interview, Linick said Pompeo agreed only to provide a written statement as Linick’s office investigated the sale and that the State Department had argued that the probe was outside of Linick’s jurisdiction.

“I told him that, under the Foreign Service Act of 1980, it was within the IG purview to review how policy is implemented,” Linick said.

When he was fired, Linick was investigating Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency last year in order to sell arms to Saudi Arabia despite congressional objections.

Linick also said his office was engaged in more investigations when he was fired, including an audit of the issue of Special Immigrant Visas and a review of the protocol office.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the transcript.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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