Stringing The Facts For A Stab At What The Department of State IG Wants To Tell Congress.
Last night news broke the State Department Inspector General has asked to brief four different committees of each House, that’s eight committees total, on an urgent matter. Thus, the briefing will involve a lot of people (apparently including staffers).
Here’s what we know.
- This is highly irregular. Congress is in recess. Participants will have to be called back from their states and districts, overnight to attend. Obviously the SDIG feels the matter is so urgent it can’t wait. The request surprised those who received it. The news also undoubtedly blindsided the Trump Administration.
- The matter relates to the Ukraine issue.
- The briefing will be sometime this afternoon at an undisclosed secure location.
- The State Department IG is a man named Steve Linick, he was appointed to the position by Obama and has been there since 2013. He was confirmed on a voice vote by the Senate.
- Linick says it involves documents he obtained from the Acting Legal Advisor for the State Department.
- The State Department’s Acting Legal Advisor is a controversial Trump appointee named Marik String. String was controversial because of the timing of his appointment (just after Trump declared a State of Emergency to bypass Congress on armed sales to the Middle East), but also because of his exceptional lack of experience. String has been a member of the Bar only since 2013. After a few years as an associate in private law firm, he was originally hired at the State Department in 2017 in a non-legal capacity before Trump appointed him the Acting Legal Advisor for the State Department just this June.
- -While the IG can act independent of political appointees the legal advisor normally cannot.
- -For context, there are two things to consider. First Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears to have been caught lying. He originally denied knowing anything about Trump’s call to the Ukrainian President, but he now admits he was actually on the call. Second, Pompeo yesterday was in a bitter exchange with Congress where he refused a Congressional demand for deposition of State Department employees, branding it an effort to bully career professionals. House committee heads responded with a letter accusing Pompeo of attempting to illegally intimidate witnesses.
Stringing The Facts Together To Guess What This Might Be
My best guess is that the all too green and unseasoned legal advisor felt he in was in over his head and took whatever panicked him to the IG. Considering that it comes from the acting legal advisor it likely involves a legal issue.
Said IG, (who does have deep experience) then did something I don’t think any IG has ever done. He called dozens of members of Congress back from recess overnight to see whatever this is. So this appears to be a legal issue of such urgency that the IG took this unprecedented action with Congress.
Given the number of people involved (eight Congressional committees, four from each house, plus staffers) it will not stay secret. The number of people involved also strongly suggests that whatever it is, it is not classified.
So we have an incredibly urgent legal issue, within the Department of State, that probably does not involved classified material but does involve the Ukraine matter. Here’s my best guess, and it is nothing but a guess, as to what this is.
It’s evidence that Pompeo did intimidate witnesses. Likely some wanted to submit to the depositions and were told they could not. Pompeo then falsely presented it as a case of him protecting them. I theorize Pompeo asked the legal advisor if it was legal for him to refuse to allow these people to testify and String answered that it was not. Pompeo then did it anyway. The Legal Advisor has that paper trail.
One thing to watch for today is whether the Administration attempts to somehow stop or slow down this fast moving train by attempting to halt the briefing. As a most extreme measure, Trump could try to fire the IG and seize the documents in his possession. A politically risky move, but if something like that happens it would show the desperation of the administration.