US State Department inspector general fired while probing Saudi arms sales

An inspector general at the US State Department who was fired last month has confirmed that he was probing the declaration of an “emergency” to justify the controversial sales of 8 billion dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia when he was abruptly relieved of his duties.

Steve Linick, the former head of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of State, made the revelation during a seven-hour-long testimony heard behind closed doors at US Congress on Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers said.

During the remotely-conducted testimony, which was held by the House Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Linick specifically mentioned Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao, one of Pompeo’s closest aides, who he said “bullied” the inspector general on several occasions in an attempt to derail the investigation.

“Mr. Linick testified that Mr. Bulatao pressured him to act in ways that Mr. Linick felt were inappropriate — including Bulatao telling Linick that the investigation into weapons sales to Saudi Arabia was not a matter for the IG to investigate,” the Democratic lawmakers said in their statement following Linick’s testimony.

On May 24, 2019, Pompeo told Congress — which was opposed to the weapons sales to Saudi Arabia — that an “emergency” existed and that the State Department would use “emergency” powers to proceed with at least 20 stalled arms deals with Saudi Arabia worth 8 billion dollars, bypassing Congress.

CNN had earlier reported that sources at the State Department believed the declaration of the emergency had been unwarranted.

In objecting to the sales, Congress had been citing the atrocities committed by the Saudi-led coalition in the war on Yemen.

The brutal war started in March 2015 in an attempt to subdue a popular uprising in Yemen that had unseated a regime friendly to Riyadh. It has so far claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).

Linick, the former inspector general at the State Department, also confirmed that he was simultaneously investigating allegations that Pompeo and his wife misused State Department funds through using a taxpayer-funded employee to run their personal errands.

Trump fired Linick on May 15, after Pompeo asked the US president to do so, making him the fourth government watchdog to have been dismissed in recent months.

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