Watchdog finds – CNNPolitics

The report by the State Department inspector general was released to Congress today and found that between April 2018 to April 2020 Susan Pompeo took eight official trips and there was only documentation of written approval for two of them. The remaining trips were given verbal sign off by the under secretary of management, he told the investigators.

The inspector general’s office did not suggest that anyone be fired or face penalties as a result of their findings, though they did suggest that the department get written approval for all future travel by family members.

No penalty was recommended because there was no violation of law or stature, just a violation of a recommendation that the legal adviser made, a source at the Office of the Inspector General tells CNN. In such instances, the source said, the OIG traditionally gives some room for the State Department to make its own decision.

Pompeo offered a combative response through a statement from the office of his spokesperson, charging that he and his wife were “fully vindicated from baseless claims reported as fact by Democrats and Media.” The statement went on to say that “there was no wrongdoing by the Secretary of State, his spouse or family, or the State Department. The OIG wasted both time and taxpayer resources on this report.”

But Pompeo and his wife have generated more inspector general investigations for their actions at the State Department than other secretaries in recent memory. The top US diplomat is also being investigated by the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency, for possibly violating a federal law that forbids federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty. And he raised the concerns of Navy lawyers in 2018 with a request for military housing that raised “factual, legal, fiscal and ethical issues.”

Thursday’s report is the just latest in a string of OIG investigations into the Pompeos’ potential misuse of taxpayer dollars, probes that have examined whether the couple had staff walk their dog, pick up dry cleaning and make dinner reservations.

Inspector General Steve Linick was looking into at least five instances of potential wrongdoing at the State Department when Pompeo asked President Donald Trump to fire him. Ousted in May 2020, Linick was just one of several independent government watchdogs tasked with investigating waste, fraud and abuse inside government agencies that Trump jettisoned without explanation. Pompeo has repeatedly denied that Linick’s ouster was retaliatory.

The OIG also looked into whether Pompeo broke rules when he declared an emergency last year that allowed the administration to fast track an $8 billion arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their war in Yemen despite congressional objections.

Pompeo refused to sit for an interview with the inspector general’s office as part of that investigation, a congressional aide told CNN.

Susan Pompeo had drawn scrutiny in the past from the inspector general for having State Department staff send her personal family Christmas cards. She has also triggered complaints from within the State Department for the demands she placed on staff during trips. Pompeo has defended her presence, calling her a “force multiplier” who is able to get to duties that he doesn’t have time for, including meeting with medical officers and touring housing.

In May, Pompeo defended his wife on Fox News for being the subject of investigations, saying that “the fact that they’re picking on my wife, who has done yeoman’s work as a volunteer to try to make life better for every officer at the State Department, I find pathetic and sad.”

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When a trip is considered official travel, also known as representational travel, the government pays for it. Otherwise any nonofficial passengers on those flights must reimburse the government.

“For family travel that is considered representational, not only does the family member not have to reimburse the government for the flight(s), but he or she also receives significant travel support from the Department at no cost, including provision of a control officer and many hours of support from Department employees,” Thursday’s report explains.

“OIG recommends that in order to ensure that the Department has appropriate documentation for internal control and record keeping purposes, the Office of the Secretary seek and gain written approval for all representational travel, and that the Under Secretary for Management or other authorizing official document in writing the approval for all representational trips by any family members,” the report states.

The investigation was the result of a whistleblower complaint into travel by Susan Pompeo. There is still an ongoing State OIG investigation into the Pompeo’s misuse of State Department resources.

Pompeo and his wife have also been criticized for holding so-called Madison Dinners in ceremonial rooms at the department, where government resources are used to host CEOs, GOP donors, conservative reporters and some foreign diplomats. They are viewed as dinners to build Pompeo’s network and donor base, and not seen as dinners geared toward foreign policy, State Department officials involved in the planning have told CNN.

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