“You may think these questions are silly, but when someone works for their entire career for the State Department and they are defamed with lies and fired for no good reason, that sends a message that they don’t it may be clearer for other State Department officials, “Kaine said. “And it might just be a big joke – I mean, hey, he looks at you smiling and laughing and calling her silly. I don’t think it’s silly for Marie Yovanovitch or the people who work for you.”
Pompeo also defended the Trump administration’s approach to Russia as well as his push to set up an inspector general amid criticism from Senate Democrats.
Pompeo listed a range of steps the administration has taken, including imposing sanctions on prominent Russians, in protecting the United States against Kremlin disinformation efforts and other measures.
However, while mentioning the rating concerns, Pompeo does not specifically say whether he is pressuring his Russian counterparts on allegations that Moscow is offering money to the Afghan Taliban to kill American soldiers. He insisted more broadly that the State Department raise all issues of concern with Russia.
“I can assure you and the American people that I have spoken to them every time [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, I raised all the issues that put American interests at stake, whether it’s our ground soldiers in Syria, ground soldiers in Afghanistan, the activities that are taking place in Libya, the actions in Ukraine, ”Pompeo said at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Pompeo̵7;s comments followed President Donald Trump’s acknowledgment in a recent interview that he did not raise the issue of money in talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Trump has indicated that he does not believe the reports on the amounts of money and that the information is not definitive.
This was the first time in more than a year that Pompeo had appeared before the Republican-led Senate committee. The hearing was supposed to be about Trump’s latest budget request to the State Department – he tried to re-propose a major cut that Congress would surely ignore – but senators used the occasion to question Pompeo. on a range of foreign policy issues.
Democrats in particular have lashed out at the secretary, arguing that the State Department is struggling under his leadership. Earlier this week, the Democratic staff of the committee issued a report indicating several problems in the department, including a large number of vacancies in key positions.
“The best people don’t seem to want to work for you,” Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey told Pompeo on Thursday.
Pompeo dismissed moral concerns in the department. He is also accused of Democratic senators, especially Menendez, of keeping nominees for vacant slots with them. Democrats say the nominees are unqualified or otherwise flawed.
Pompeo also faced questions about his decision to ask the president to hire State Department inspector Steve Linick. Trump fired Linick in mid-May. Linick happened to be monitoring two probes dealing with behavior by Pompeo.
Pompeo insisted again Thursday that he knew only from one of those investigations, and alluded to a probe into his decision to pass arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite resistance from Congress. The other probe involves whether Pompeo and his wife, Susan, misused State Department resources.
Defending the guard’s shooting, Pompeo claimed that Linick was not doing a good job and that he was not supporting the State Department mission.
On Thursday, he alleged that Linick failed to properly monitor the department’s finances. He claimed, for example, that the inspector general’s office had conducted fewer audits of diplomatic posts worldwide. He also insisted that Linick’s office had low morale.
“He refused to take care of his team in important ways,” Pompeo said of Linick.
Linick told lawmakers of his shooting that they took him by surprise. He has been one of several inspectors fired by Trump in recent months in what Democrats say is an attempt by the president to evade responsibility.