Pompeo Declined Interview Request From Inspector General About Saudi Arms Sales

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined an interview request for the State Department inspector general’s inquiry into whether the Trump administration acted illegally in declaring an “emergency” to bypass a congressional freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to three people with knowledge of his actions.

Some officials say that it may have been a combination of issues, rather than any single investigation, that led to the dismissal of Mr. Linick, one of four inspectors general Mr. Trump has fired or demoted in recent weeks.

The State Department has declined to comment publicly about Mr. Linick’s investigation into the arms sales or provide any detail about its scope. But the push by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump to resume the sales, especially after the killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, was opposed by some lawmakers from both parties and was highly controversial among some Foreign Service officers, who argued that Mr. Trump’s desire to win arms sales for American contractors was overriding human rights protections.

Mr. Pompeo said he usually did not become aware of inspector general reports until a few days before they were released publicly. But that was clearly not the case in the investigation into the Saudi arms decision. That report still has not been released, though employees from the inspector general’s office briefed senior State Department officials on a draft version in early March.

It is not clear if the final report will be critical of the legal maneuvers the Trump administration carried out to restore sales to the Saudis and Emiratis.

Cabinet secretaries sometimes try to avoid interviews with inspectors general, preferring the more controlled route of providing written responses. That allows them to turn the process over to lawyers to help shape the answers.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had asked last June for the inspector general to start an investigation into the arms sales. Mr. Engel said on Monday that the inquiry might have been “another reason” that Mr. Pompeo recommended to Mr. Trump that he fire Mr. Linick. Mr. Trump notified Congress on Friday of the firing, starting a 30-day review period on the president’s action as Mr. Linick prepares to leave.

Mr. Pompeo has denied any wrongdoing in most instances.

When asked by The Post about Mr. Linick’s inquiry into the potential misuse of a State Department employee, Mr. Pompeo said he had been unaware of it. But he avoided answering a question on whether he had ever engaged in such activity, saying, “I’m not going to answer the host of unsubstantiated allegations about any of that.”

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