Fired State Dept watchdog says he was bullied by officials

FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2019, file photo State Department Inspector General Steve Linick leaves a meeting in a secure area at the Capitol in Washington. Linick irritated powerful Democrats and Republicans alike in his seven years as the independent watchdog investigating waste and mismanagement at the State Department. Still, he was stunned by a Friday night phone call saying President Donald Trump had fired him. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2019, file photo State Department Inspector General Steve Linick leaves a meeting in a secure area at the Capitol in Washington. Linick irritated powerful Democrats and Republicans alike in his seven years as the independent watchdog investigating waste and mismanagement at the State Department. Still, he was stunned by a Friday night phone call saying President Donald Trump had fired him. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – The independent State Department watchdog fired by President Donald Trump says top department officials tried to bully him and dissuade his office from conducting a review of a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

Former Inspector General Steve Linick told Congress last week that two senior officials sought to block an inquiry into the arms deal, according to a transcript of the interview made public Wednesday by Democrats leading an investigation into his dismissal.

Linick, who had been inspector general since 2013, also said he was looking into previously reported allegations that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife may have misused government staff to run personal errands and several other matters. Trump abruptly fired him late on May 15 with what Linick said was no warning or cited cause.

“I was in a state of shock because I had no advance notice of anything like that,” Linick said, recalling his reaction when he was informed of Trump's decision. “I had no indication whatsoever.”

Shortly after the transcript was released, Pompeo called Linick a “bad actor” who had been acting inappropriately and not in the best interests of the State Department. Pompeo did not address the allegations of attempted bullying. He stood by his recommendation that Trump fire Linick, one of several inspectors general whom the president has recently dismissed.

Linick said he had opened a review of last year's $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia at the request of lawmakers who claimed Pompeo had inappropriately circumvented Congress to approve the deal. Linick said the State Department’s top management officer, Brian Bulatao, and legal adviser Marik String tried to stop him.

Bulatao “said that we shouldn’t be doing the work because it was a policy matter not within the IG’s jurisdiction,” Linick said, adding that both Bulatao and String “were of the same mind” on the matter.

Linick said in the interview that he believed the Saudi review, which is continuing, was appropriate because it looked at whether proper procedures and regulations were followed. He said he had requested an interview with Pompeo on the matter but had never received a response. Linick acknowledged that Pompeo did respond in writing to questions.