Chairs Release Letter from Acting State Department IG Regarding His Ongoing Conflicts of Interest
Washington, D.C. (June 5, 2020)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Eliot Engel, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, released the following statement in response to a letter from Acting State Department Inspector General Stephen J. Akard after President Trump fired the previous Inspector General Steven Linick:
“The President and Secretary Pompeo are trying to undermine oversight and avoid accountability while trampling on the independence of our dedicated Inspectors General. They should immediately reverse their decision to remove Inspector General Steven Linick, who has done nothing but fulfill his statutory responsibility to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against Secretary Pompeo.
“We are in receipt of a letter from Mr. Linick’s purported replacement, Ambassador Akard, indictaing that he plans to ‘step away’ from his current job reporting directly to Secretary Pompeo while he serves as President Trump’s choice as Acting Inspector General. That is not enough. If Ambassador Akard seeks to serve in the independent office of the Inspector General, he must immediately, officially, and fully resign from his current Department position.”
On May 21, 2020, the Chairs wrote to Ambassador Akard about the “inherent conflict of interest” created by him serving simultaneously as Acting Inspector General and Director of the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM) reporting to Secretary Pompeo.
In yesterday’s letter, Ambassador Akard made the following assertions to the Committees:
- “I can confirm that I have stepped away from the operations of OFM and, while Acting Inspector General, will not exercise the authorities or duties associated with the Director of OFM position.”
- “At a minimum, I will be recused from all matters related to OFM. I will also be recused from matters I worked on, in a substantive way, at the Department prior to my tenure as the Director of OFM. Furthermore, I will be recused from matters involving individuals with whom I have a personal relationship such that my objectivity could be impaired.”
- “During my tenure as Acting Inspector General, OIG will continue its audits, inspections, evaluations, and investigations and I will execute my duties in accordance with the laws, policies, and standards governing my position and OIG’s work.”
On June 3, 2020, the Committees interviewed Inspector General Linick, who warned that Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao attempted to “bully” him into dropping an investigation into weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Ambassador Akard reports directly to Mr. Bulatao and indirectly to Secretary Pompeo. Mr. Linick said that while the Secretary or Under Secretary could not stop the release of the Inspector General’s work, the person leading the Inspector General’s office—now Ambassador Akard—could slow down or stop the work.
Mr. Linick also stated: “I have not heard any valid reason that would justify my removal,” but that he has learned that Ambassador Akard was approached about taking over as acting State Department Inspector General in April, weeks before Mr. Linick was fired.
Chairwoman Maloney and Chairman Connolly, along with Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter A. DeFazio, previously expressed similar concerns with the dual roles that Acting Department of Transportation Inspector General Howard R. Elliott currently holds by maintaining his position in the Department of Transportation reporting directly to Secretary Elaine Chao.
Elliott responded earlier this week that he will continue to perform the duties of both his position in the Department of Transportation and Acting Inspector General. He also stated that he will recuse himself only from matters involving his own office and not ongoing investigations of Secretary Chao.