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Where On Earth Does Mike Pompeo Keep Misplacing His Inspectors General?
Under here with the WMDs?
Yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that his department's inspector general, Stephen Akard, was heading home to Indiana immediately. Without returning to pack up his office. As one does when there is absolutely nothing hinky going on.
"He left to go back home. This happens. I don't have anything more to add to that," Pompeo said, as if Akard were a dog that had gone to his great reward on a farm upstate, instead of a longtime federal employee with strong ties to the Republican Party who suddenly vanished without explanation.
And to lose one inspector general may be regarded as misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. Or worse! Particularly when the you're facing multiple investigations by the IG's office, and you lose both of them within 90 days.
Just three months ago, President Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick at Pompeo's request. His henchman Brian Bulatao was immediately dispatched to smear Linick as a leaker, but then it emerged that Linick had been investigating Pompeo for eleventy ethical lapses ranging from forcing employees to walk his dog to using State Department resources to wine and dine potential donors for his future presidential bid. Plus there was the little matter of illegally greenlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia in contravention of congressional mandate, allegedly.
With Linick out of the way, Pompeo got to handpick his successor, which is a nice perk! So Akard, one of Vice President Mike Pence's Hoosier pals from back in the day, took over as IG. Akard didn't even have to give up his spot as director of the Office of Foreign Missions, even though the IG was supposed to oversee any irregularities there, which would have had Akard investigating himself. Because who even cares about the little improprieties when everything is on fire all the time, right?
But apparently there was trouble in paradise, since Akard is suddenly MIA. Could it have been the investigation into Linick's firing that has congressional subpoenas raining down on the State Department? Could it have been Linick's promise to Congress to pull a Sessions and recuse himself from two of the Pompeo probes? Could it have been the realization that this administration has gone totally off the rails and anyone in a position of authority will spend the rest of the decade testifying to congressional investigators and paying off his lawyers? Or could it have been something more specific, to wit ...
Last night, Rachel Maddow interviewed Lewis A. Lukens, the former deputy chief of mission in London about the New York Times scoop that Trump tried to grift the British Open for his Scottish golf course at Turnberry. Apparently, Trump leaned on Robert "Woody" Johnson IV, our ambassador to the United Kingdom, to ask the British government for help scoring the tournament and the sweet, sweet cash that would finally put his money-losing property in the black. Because grifting the per diem from American troops forced to lay over in Scotland on their way back from the Middle East isn't going to cut it.
Johnson asked his deputy Lukens how to go about getting Trump what he wanted, and Lukens said, as he described it to Maddow, "you shouldn't do it, it's unethical, probably illegal" since it was "a clear example of trying to use US government resources and the position of the US Ambassador to the Court of Saint James to line the president's pocket."
The president has denied that Johnson ever made the approach. But according to Lukens, it definitely happened, and the horrified embassy staffer who had been at the meeting raced into his office immediately afterwards and said, "You're not going to believe what the ambassador just did! He just asked about having the golf tournament moved to Turnberry in Scotland." After which Lukens reported the gross impropriety to the State Department, where he was told that "Ambassadors like Woody Johnson were friends of the president, and therefore there was not much to be gained by trying to push back on their behavior."
Which is not how a functioning democracy works. There was, however, a report on the incident generated by then-IG Steve Linick and his team. It was completed in May and should have been made public by now. But Lukens says that it may have been classified — just like Trump's perfect, perfect conversation with the Ukrainian president, which somehow ended up on the bin Laden server — to keep it out of the public eye.
In any event, no one has seen it. And now that Lukens is talking, Akard has suddenly disappeared just like his predecessor. Which could be a coincidence, but probably isn't.
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