A State Department whistleblower accused former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his staff of a litany of misconduct in 2019, according to newly unredacted records obtained by CREW. The alleged misconduct included false or misleading statements to the agency’s legal department, misuse of government resources on personal and political activities potentially prohibited by the Hatch Act, verbal abuse of employees by Mike and Susan Pompeo and directives to staff not to communicate in writing in order to evade transparency laws.
A heavily redacted version of the whistleblower complaint, filed with the State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) in 2019, was previously released to American Oversight and reported by McClatchy in July 2020. At that time, the OIG redacted information it claimed was subject to ongoing investigations.
The OIG lifted many of those redactions in the complaint released to CREW, revealing that the whistleblower was a State Department employee who “directly witnessed and/or heard numerous firsthand accounts from those [he or she] supervised of the following behavior by the Secretary of State and his senior (career) staff”:
Pompeo’s misconduct occurred throughout 2019 in Washington, DC, New York, Florida, other locations in the US, and overseas during official travel, according to the whistleblower.
The complaint alleges “[s]everal senior career Foreign Service officials who held positions of responsibility within the Executive Secretariat” turned a blind eye to Pompeo’s “questionable activities” and, in some cases, “facilitat[ed]” them.
Although employees in the Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser “expressed concern that some of these activities may have violated [the] Hatch Act or other regulations,” the whistleblower was “unaware that any resolution was reached, potentially because senior officials in the Executive Secretariat repeatedly declined to seek clarification or guidance from [the Office of the Legal Adviser] despite requests from subordinates to do so.”
A new memo shows that the OIG’s Office of Investigations closed its case file on the whistleblower complaint in July 2020 — just weeks after former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was fired at Pompeo’s request. The case closing memo does not specify who made the decision or why it was made. It says only that, on “July 15, 2020, a decision was made that the [OIG’s Office of Evaluations and Special Projects] would continue this administrative investigation without the need for further support from [the Office of Investigations]. This matter is closed to file.”
The OIG’s Office of Evaluations and Special Projects went on to issue a report in April 2021 — months after Pompeo left office — finding that Mike and Susan Pompeo repeatedly misused government resources for personal tasks. The report only examined some of the misconduct alleged by the whistleblower. It’s unclear whether the OIG investigated the whistleblower’s other claims or made any finding as to their validity, but the agency’s decision to release previously-redacted information to CREW indicates no investigation is ongoing.
The new documents also show the fallout from Linick’s removal in May 2020, which was part of a broader purge of inspectors general by former president Trump. One unidentified OIG official said agency staff were “stunned” by the decision and suggested he or she feared Trump’s wrath.
“[T]his is all so surreal three days later. I’m nervous about the future,” the OIG employee wrote in a May 18, 2020 email. In a later email, the official added, “I just heard Trump say we needed to get rid of the ‘Attorney Generals’ as a whole…Oh dear.”
Another email exchange from late May 2020 shows the OIG rejected the Office of the Legal Adviser’s efforts to coordinate on responses to media inquiries relating to the Office of Foreign Missions, citing the OIG’s legal duty to remain independent from the agency it is responsible for investigating.
CREW obtained the records in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which seeks a full accounting of Pompeo’s apparent efforts to derail probes into his misconduct. With Pompeo now out of office and powerless to block federal inquiries, authorities should ensure that the whistleblower’s allegations have been thoroughly investigated and take action to hold Pompeo and implicated career officials accountable for any wrongdoing.