State Department officials to appear before House panel on inspector general’s ouster

Late Tuesday, panel Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) released four memorandums that the IG’s office and State Department officials exchanged over the summer, discussing the department’s objections to the forthcoming report. The documents indicate that on July 10, senior State Department officials asked the IG to remove entire sections of information pertaining to the risk of civilian casualties posed by those arms sales from both classified and unclassified sections of the report “in order to address potential Executive Privilege concerns.”

The department official who made that demand, Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper, will appear at Wednesday’s hearing. The hearing will also feature Brian Bulatao, a top aide and longtime confidant of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Marik String, the agency’s acting legal adviser.

In its response July 21, the inspector general accused the department of making “overly broad” redaction requests, and pointed out that the president must actually invoke executive privilege for it to apply.

In August, the IG’s office released its report on the emergency arms sales declaration. Its key finding was that the State Department failed to fully assess the risk of civilian casualties when it invoked a national emergency declaration in 2019 to approve the sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia without consulting Congress, where lawmakers had just passed a war powers resolution withdrawing U.S. support for a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

In a statement accompanying the release of the documents, Engel said the memos “show just how hard the State Department wanted to hide the truth about last year’s phony emergency declaration. … Inspector General Steve Linick must have been quite a thorn in Mr. Pompeo’s side before Mr. Pompeo had him fired.”

Linick is one of five inspectors general fired under the Trump administration in the span of six weeks this spring. At the time of his dismissal, he was also investigating whether Pompeo had a government aide carry out personal errands for him, such as picking up his dry cleaning and walking his dog.

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