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Pompeo violated ethics rules by asking staff to carry out personal tasks, watchdog finds

The State Department’s independent watchdog found that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan Pompeo violated federal ethics rules by making over 100 personal, non-work related requests to department employees — from ordering gifts to booking salon appointments and taking care of the family dog.

The Department’s Office of Inspector General “found that both Secretary and Mrs. Pompeo requested that the political appointee and other employees in the Office of the Secretary undertake work of a personal nature, such as picking up personal items, planning events unrelated to the Department’s mission, and conducting such personal business as pet care and mailing personal Christmas cards,” according to the report. “OIG found that such requests were inconsistent with Department ethics rules and the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.”

The report, which was published Friday, also noted that the Pompeos directed one of their employees to use State Department funds “to purchase items, such as gold nut bowls, for when the Pompeos visited the homes of friends or attended dinners held in their honor by private U.S. citizens.”

The release of the report comes as Pompeo has given strong signals he may be planning to run for president in 2024. The former top US diplomat recently traveled to Iowa and joined Fox News as a contributor.

According to the report, the watchdog “found evidence of over 100 requests to Department employees that are inconsistent with the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch or raised questions about the proper use of Department resources.”

In a statement, the former secretary of state said the report’s findings were not accurate.

“At no time did I, or my wife Susan, misuse taxpayer money or violate rules or ethical norms. Our actions were constantly reviewed by dozens of lawyers, and we made massive efforts, and did, comply with every requirement,” Pompeo wrote. He also called the report, issued by an independent watchdog, politically motivated.

Pompeo’s legal counsel, William Burck, raised a lengthy list of objections to the findings and conclusion in an April letter included in the report. Burck referred CNN to that letter on Friday.

‘Miscellaneous personal requests’

According to the report, the majority of the Pompeos’ requests were made to employees in the secretary’s office, but they “generally did not make similar requests to the (diplomatic security) agents who served on their protective details.”

The employees who received requests from Susan Pompeo said they considered them “to be at the direction of Secretary Pompeo.”

According to the report, the requests “fell into three broad categories—requests to pick up personal items, planning of events unrelated to the Department’s mission, and miscellaneous personal requests.” The staff were also “asked to arrange personal dinners and entertainment for the Pompeos, which potentially could have both personal and official aspects to them; thus, it is unclear if they constitute a violation of ethical standards.”

The OIG found numerous examples of the Pompeos making personal requests of “the Senior Advisor,” likely referencing Toni Porter, a longtime aide to the former Kansas congressman.

“On at least six occasions, Mrs. Pompeo had personal items, such as cleaning supplies and jewelry, shipped to the Senior Advisor’s home and asked that the items be delivered to the Pompeo residence,” the report says. “Secretary Pompeo explained to OIG that, for security reasons, it was often difficult to get items delivered to his residence, so the Pompeos opted to have such items shipped elsewhere, including the Senior Advisor’s home. He stated that such requests were nothing more than ‘asking a friend to help out.'”

The report noted that “on several occasions throughout 2018 and 2019,” both Mike and Susan Pompeo asked Porter to care for their dog. Their requests “included picking the dog up from their home and dropping it off with a boarder; picking it up from the boarder and returning it to their home; and stopping by their home to let the dog out when they were not at home.”

In another instance, “in July 2019, Mrs. Pompeo tasked the Senior Advisor with helping her draft and submit a letter of recommendation for the medical school application of a personal friend of the Pompeos who had no connection to the Department.”

The watchdog “identified at least 30 instances when the Secretary or Mrs. Pompeo tasked (Office of the Secretary) employees with making restaurant reservations for personal lunches and dinners with Pompeo family members or friends.”

The facts ‘speak for themselves’

The watchdog agency opened the inquiry into the Pompeos’ possible misuse of taxpayer resources in 2019 following a whistleblower complaint.

In May 2020, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was fired at Pompeo’s behest. The former top US diplomat repeatedly denied that his recommendation for Linick’s ouster was retaliatory.

Pompeo himself “finally” sat for an interview with the Office of Inspector General on December 23, 2020 — three months after the OIG made the request, according to the report.

“The delay in obtaining an interview with the Secretary delayed completion of the review and this report,” it said.

The early April response from the Pompeos’ lawyer raised objections on the grounds that most of the requests came from Susan Pompeo, who is not a State Department employee, and “that the requests were ‘de minimis’ and thus not in violation of the Standards of Ethical Conduct.”

“Another objection of Secretary Pompeo’s counsel is that the requests in question were mere personal favors performed by the Senior Advisor because of her long friendship with the Pompeos. As noted in the report, the Senior Advisor told OIG that she generally performed these tasks not as personal favors to the Pompeos, but rather because she believed she had to as part of her official duties,” it stated.

“Finally, Secretary Pompeo’s counsel expressed concern that the report ‘may be politically motivated’ and is the product of staff in the OIG who he speculates ‘strongly disagreed with personnel decisions made during Mr. Pompeo’s tenure, including the termination of former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick,'” the report stated.

However, the OIG noted that the probe was opened prior to Linick’s ouster and that the report was “largely based on documentary evidence, namely emails between Susan Pompeo and Department employees, regarding requests that no one is disputing were made.”

“Any allegation of bias or political motivation is not borne out by the facts, which speak for themselves,” it said.

The OIG made three recommendations in the report — that the department’s legal adviser “update its guidance to the Office of the Secretary to include guidance on the use of Department funds to pay for gifts to U.S. citizens and the use of Department employees to arrange personal dinners and entertainment;” that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security update its handbook with guidance on “appropriate and inappropriate requests” and how agents should respond to inappropriate requests; and “that the Under Secretary for Management draft and publish guidance on the use of a subordinate’s time for tasks of a personal nature, including direction concerning what to do and who to contact when a Department employee is tasked with an inappropriate request.”

“The Department concurred with all three recommendations,” the report said.

This story has been updated with a statement from Mike Pompeo.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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