A leading House Democrat is demanding that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hurry up and hand over information about the alleged mistreatment of career employees at the State Department. He insists that Pompeo at least deliver by the end of this week a timeline for when the material will be given to lawmakers. Instead of sharing that material, the department informed the lawmakers in April that the issue had been referred for investigation to the State Department’s Office of Inspector General as well as the U.
A leading House Democrat is demanding that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hurry up and hand over information about the alleged mistreatment of career employees at the State Department.
In a letter, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York even refers to Pompeo’s aggressiveness on the Benghazi investigation when he was a congressman to chide him for acting slowly now.
“I remain deeply concerned that Trump administration appointees at the State Department have targeted career employees based on national origin or perceived political beliefs,” Engel writes in the letter, dated Monday and obtained by POLITICO. He insists that Pompeo at least deliver by the end of this week a timeline for when the material will be given to lawmakers.
Engel is the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In March, a whistleblower gave him and other lawmakers a batch of emails that appeared to show President Donald Trump’s political appointees at the State Department conversing with conservative media and political figures about ways to sideline some civil servants and Foreign Service officers for questionable reasons.
Civil servants and Foreign Service officers are supposed to be nonpartisan government officials who implement the policies of whichever administration is running the White House, and there are laws designed to protect them from being unfairly targeted for dismissal.
The staffers who drew Trump aides’ attention included Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, an Iran expert who joined the civil service during the George W. Bush administration. Trump appointees pushed Nowrouzzadeh out of a prestigious State Department post after articles about her appeared in conservative media. The emails exchanged by the Trump-appointed officials included at least one that claimed – falsely – that Nowrouzzadeh was born in Iran.
Nowrouzzadeh’s case was first reported by POLITICO in April 2017.
After getting the whistleblower’s material, Democrats demanded that the State Department hand over all relevant documents about Nowrouzzadeh and others. Instead of sharing that material, the department informed the lawmakers in April that the issue had been referred for investigation to the State Department’s Office of Inspector General as well as the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
Engel’s letter notes that during an appearance before the House committee on May 23, Pompeo promised to send a timeline to lawmakers by the end of that week laying out when additional documents would be given to Congress. That timeline was never delivered, Engel states.
According to Engel’s letter, administration officials have told the congressman’s staffers that handing over material to lawmakers could jeopardize the investigations by the Office of Special Counsel and the inspector general, both of which are based in the executive branch.
“I don’t accept this explanation,” Engel writes to Pompeo. “No law or policy exists, to my knowledge, that would prevent the department from turning over the requested documents while these other investigations go forward.”
He adds: “Indeed, with your experience as a member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, you understand that it’s entirely appropriate for Congress to conduct such an investigation on a track parallel to OIG or OSC efforts.”
Pompeo took over as secretary of state in late April; the emails that appeared to show the alleged targeting of career staffers were sent around last year under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, relatively early in Trump’s tenure.
During his years as a Republican congressman from Kansas, Pompeo was among the Obama administration’s harshest and most relentless critics after four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, were killed in 2012 in Benghazi, Libya.
Pompeo co-authored an addendum to the report by the House committee looking into Benghazi that used much tougher language. Pompeo also declared that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s actions over Benghazi were “morally reprehensible.”
The State Department did not immediately respond on Monday to a request for comment on Engel’s letter.
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