By Duncan Smith
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ripped New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez in comments Wednesday as he defended his decision to ask President Donald Trump to fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
In a press conference, Pompeo pushed back on media claims that he asked Trump to fire Linick as retaliation for his alleged investigations into the secretary of state.
Rather, Pompeo put the blame squarely on Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
This is all coming through the office of Senator Menendez,” Pompeo said. “I don’t get my ethics guidance from a man who was criminally prosecuted — case number 15-155, New Jersey federal district court. A man for whom his Senate colleagues, bipartisan said basically that he was taking bribes. That’s not someone who I look to for ethics guidance.”
Pompeo refused to say publicly why he asked the president to dismiss Linick, but he did tell the Washington Post this week that the former IG was “undermining” the State Department.
“I recommended to the president that Steve Linick be terminated — frankly should have done it some time ago,” Pompeo said at the press conference. “We’ll share with the appropriate people the rationale.”
According to reports, Linick was investigating Pompeo for allegedly asking staff to help with personal errands including walking his dog and picking up dry cleaning, and for subverting Congress by authorizing the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
The secretary of state said he only knew of one probe and that he could not possibly have retaliated
“I’ve seen the various stories that someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner. I mean, it’s all just crazy,” Pompeo said.
“I didn’t have access to that information so I couldn’t possibly have retaliated. It would have been impossible. There’s one exception. I was asked a series of questions in writing. I responded to those questions with respect to a particular investigation that was sometime earlier this year, as best I can recall. I responded to those questions,” he added without identifying the specific probe.
As for Menendez’ ethics problems, the New York Post reports:
Menendez was admonished in 2018 by the Senate Ethics Committee for his relationship with donor Salomon Melgen. A 2017 trial of Menendez ended in a mistrial and the Trump Justice Department dropped the case in 2018.
Menendez was accused of accepting free flights and gifts from Melgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist, in exchange for help getting visas for Melgen’s girlfriends and assistance in a Medicare billing dispute and a port contract in the Dominican Republic.
Melgen was convicted in 2017 of fraud for overbilling Medicare by as much as $105 million. He was sentenced to serve 17 years in prison.
On Tuesday, the president admonished a reporter for asking him about Pompeo alleged requests that staffers do his personal errands.
“ou mean he’s under investigation because he had somebody walk his dog, from the government? I don’t know. It doesn’t sound — I don’t think it sounds like that important. I mean, you have a man that’s supposed to be — and he’s a brilliant guy, number one at West Point, number one at Harvard, I believe — Harvard Law School, or close … and they’re bothered because he’s having somebody walk his dog, as you’re telling me?” Trump said.
Later, Trump said, “I’d rather have him on the phone with some world leader than have him wash dishes … Do you know how stupid that sounds to the world?”