Mike Pompeo's disturbing actions

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended his recommendation to President Donald Trump to fire Inspector General Steve Linick. CNN's Kylie Atwood reports.

Posted: May 21, 2020 7:51 AM
Updated: May 21, 2020 7:51 AM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has surged into the headlines atop a geyser of revelations so dramatic that they may even help President Donald Trump distract the public from his disastrous pandemic response.

Ironically, Pompeo's scandal was propelled by the efforts of the secretary himself -- and his boss -- to keep it quiet. Their decision to get rid of the man charged with investigating any signs of malfeasance at the State Department has only drawn a spotlight, and the closer we look, the more disturbing Pompeo's actions appear.

Investigations by a number of news organizations allege a pattern familiar in the Trump administration: possible abuse of power for personal gain; disdain and circumvention of accepted procedures, and a propensity to treat a government position as a personal fiefdom with little regard for both the taxpayers' money and common decency.

In short, it looks like Pompeo brought the swamp to Foggy Bottom.

On Wednesday, Pompeo ridiculed what he called "crazy" stories about him, with a satirical summary mocking the reports: "someone was walking my dog to sell arms to dry cleaners," he gibed. The news reports are not so laughable.

For starters NBC News provided detailed evidence of about two dozen luxurious dinners held by Pompeo and his wife Susan at the State Department's Diplomatic Reception Rooms, all paid for by taxpayers, with guest lists made up more of Republican donors and activists than foreign diplomats and policy experts. (Some 39% of the nearly 500 invitees were from Fox News, NBC reported.) But that's only part of the unfolding narrative.

It became apparent late last Friday that something worth hiding was brewing under Pompeo, when Trump announced his intention to fire the State Department's Inspector General, Steve Linick. Inspectors general are Senate-confirmed government officials charged with auditing and investigating potential instances of fraud and abuse in the government.

For that reason, they have come under relentless attack from a president who stands at the center of so many corruption scandals you need a spreadsheet to keep track, paying tens of millions to settle accusations of fraud at his Trump University and found in violation of charity rules at his Trump Foundation (he denies wrongdoing in both cases), to name just a couple in an endless stream. Linick's was the third late-night inspector general firing in six weeks, a slow-rolling Friday night massacre.

Pompeo acknowledged Wednesday that he asked Trump to fire Linick, but offered scant explanation for the reason, other than that it should have happened sooner. He called claims that the firing was retribution for probes into his activities "patently false."

The law requires the President to give 30 days' notice on IG dismissals, so the announcement shot the starting gun on Congressional investigations into Linick's firing.

Moments after the announcement, Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel -- chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs -- dropped the first bombshell, revealing that Linick was investigating Pompeo. Engel, with Sen. Bob Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opened a probe into the ouster, decrying "the politically-motivated firing of inspectors general and the President's gutting of these critical positions." Later, NBC reported that Linick was investigating Pompeo's use of a State Department political appointee to conduct personal errands, such as walking his dog and picking up his laundry.

Within hours, the accusations grew more disturbing. Engel told CNN of another possible reason for Linick's firing. The inspector general, it turns out, was investigating the declaration of an "emergency" that Pompeo had cited one year ago as reason for bypassing the requirement that Congress approve an $8 billion sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Engel, who called the declaration "phony," said Linick was conducting an investigation of it at his office's request. The New York Times reported that Pompeo had already answered written questions into that probe.

But now there's more.

The NBC investigation identified the dog-walking staffer, whose name appeared in the emails NBC reviewed in connection with the so-called Madison Dinners. The staffer was the principal liaison between Pompeo's office and the protocol office that organized the dinners. "Two administration officials told NBC News that Linick made some type of inquiry to the protocol office last week, before he was fired," NBC reported. "One of the officials said Pompeo's office was then notified." Was Linick also investigating Pompeo's dinners? That remains unclear.

Even if he was not, Americans will find the details fascinating and more than a little disturbing. The events, with their own logo embossed on State Department invitations, brought hundreds of people to the center of US diplomacy more than 20 times since Pompeo became Secretary of State.

Pompeo's spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, told NBC that the dinners were an "opportunity to discuss the mission of the State Department and the complex foreign policy matters facing our exceptional nation." But the guest list more closely suggests an opportunity to further a political career within the Republican establishment.

The majority came from the corporate world and conservative media and entertainment, along with Republican -- only Republican -- members of Congress. Among those wined and dined -- and sent home with custom-embossed party gifts -- were Fox News' Laura Ingraham, Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of a prominent anti-abortion lobbying group, Bill Miller, head of a leading casino lobbying group, former Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, Chick-fil-A Chairman Dan Cathy, a leading conservative donor, and others, in a detailed mailing list reviewed by NBC.

Sources told NBC that the State Department collected information about each guest, and that information was all forwarded to the private Gmail account of Susan Pompeo, the Secretary of State's wife. Whatever reason she had for receiving the data, it amounts to a treasure trove, should the Secretary of State decide to run for a Kansas Senate seat -- or for President. If that is the purpose of the dinners and the emailing, it is a violation of the Hatch Act, which bans most federal employees from using their position for partisan political activities.

You may recall, by the way, the time a Trump-appointed federal watchdog, loyal conservative Henry Kerner, advised the President to fire adviser Kellyanne Conway for violating the Hatch Act. For his trouble he was smeared by Congressional Republicans at a hearing on the matter. ("Let me know when the jail sentence starts," Conway cracked to a reporter. Trump called Kerner's assessment flawed, said "it seems to me very unfair," and that he had no intention of firing Conway.)

One of the most distinctive and harmful traits of the Trump administration is its disdain for ethics and integrity in government. But another, is its pattern of leaving political appointees stained, their reputation in tatters, a prospect that should worry Pompeo.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17436187
Hinds16524328
Harrison13876199
Rankin11000217
Jackson10652187
Lee8981141
Madison8413168
Jones6552112
Forrest6101121
Lauderdale6034189
Lowndes5463119
Lafayette507393
Lamar496465
Washington4877124
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Oktibbeha401681
Panola378380
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Monroe3628105
Warren3619101
Union350563
Marshall349569
Neshoba3433152
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Leflore3079108
Lincoln300687
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Hancock285360
Tate276762
Alcorn268854
Pike266580
Itawamba266261
Scott253448
Yazoo250156
Prentiss249552
Tippah245850
Copiah244549
Coahoma243654
Simpson240069
Leake234367
Grenada221171
Marion218473
Covington216972
Adams210170
Wayne206432
Winston205267
George202739
Attala195761
Newton195745
Tishomingo192461
Chickasaw186144
Jasper176038
Holmes169868
Clay162735
Tallahatchie154935
Stone148424
Clarke143562
Calhoun138021
Smith125825
Yalobusha120234
Walthall113437
Greene112129
Noxubee111425
Montgomery110936
Carroll105922
Lawrence104317
Perry103231
Amite99926
Webster94324
Tunica87621
Jefferson Davis87327
Claiborne86825
Benton84023
Humphreys83624
Kemper79120
Quitman7029
Franklin68716
Choctaw62313
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55920
Sharkey44217
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 432536

Reported Deaths: 6379
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63523957
Mobile30967562
Madison27627201
Tuscaloosa21122268
Montgomery19495326
Shelby18941126
Baldwin16798188
Lee12901102
Morgan12447129
Etowah11911178
Calhoun11365205
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Houston8813156
Limestone823176
Cullman8159106
Elmore8056104
DeKalb7796102
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St. Clair7705122
Talladega6347109
Walker5993174
Jackson590341
Colbert543274
Blount541186
Autauga527061
Coffee454160
Dale405482
Franklin371948
Russell345712
Chilton340972
Covington334168
Escambia328344
Dallas310196
Chambers297370
Clarke290536
Tallapoosa2665107
Pike258830
Marion250155
Lawrence249150
Winston231442
Bibb219848
Geneva206946
Marengo205229
Pickens198631
Hale180842
Barbour177836
Fayette174528
Butler171358
Cherokee162530
Henry157523
Monroe150718
Randolph143236
Washington139527
Clay128546
Crenshaw121644
Cleburne119724
Lamar119621
Macon119637
Lowndes112536
Wilcox105822
Bullock101428
Perry99118
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Coosa62215
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