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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came out swinging on Wednesday amid pushback over last week’s firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, reminding the press that the Democratic senator leading a probe over Linick’s termination was himself prosecuted on corruption charges.
What are the details?
President Donald Trump fired Linick on Friday, prompting outrage from Democrats. The president later said he was asked by Pompeo to let Linick go, and reports have emerged indicating that the watchdog had been investigation Pompeo.
In response, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) launched an investigation into Linick’s firing, saying “it may be an illegal act of retaliation.”
Pompeo addressed questions surrounding Linick during a press conference on Wednesday, acknowledging, “I recommended to the president that Steve Linick be terminated. Frankly, should’ve done it some time ago.”
The secretary of state told reporters, “This is all coming through the office of Sen. Menendez. I don’t get my ethics guidance from a man who was criminally prosecuted. Case number 15-155.”
Sen. Menendez was charged during the Obama administration with conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud and accused of abusing the power of his office. A federal judge declared a mistrial in the case in 2017, and the New Jersey Democrat was subsequently reelected.
The Washington Examiner noted that despite the Department of Justice abandoning the prosecution of Menendez following the mistrial, the senator was “severely admonished” by the Senate Ethics Committee.
Pompeo said of Menendez, “His Senate colleagues, bipartisan, said basically that he was taking bribes.”