Watchdog Finds the Pompeos Made Over 100 Requests of ‘Personal Nature’ to Staff
The former State Department secretary’s counsel vehemently denied the issues outlined in the inspector general report.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife, Susan Pompeo, made over 100 requests for department employees to do tasks of a “personal nature,” possibly in violation of ethics standards, according to a recent watchdog report.
The State Department inspector general published the unclassified version of a report about President Trump’s secretary of State on Friday. The IG office initiated the review after receiving a whistleblower complaint in 2019. This is not the first time the Pompeos have been under scrutiny for their handling of government resources.
“[The Office of Inspector General] 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,” said the report. “The majority of these requests were from the secretary and Mrs. Pompeo to employees” in the Office of the Secretary and fit into three main categories: “requests to pick up personal items, planning of events unrelated to the department’s mission, and miscellaneous personal requests.”
A senior adviser who started working for the secretary of State in May 2018 completed many of the requests. Her relationship with the Pompeos dates back to the early 1990s and Pompeo deemed her a friend, the report said. Besides the senior adviser, the IG found that other department employees were asked to take on work of a “personal nature” as well. These requests were handled during on and off duty hours and employees “were not separately compensated by Secretary Pompeo.”
Some of the instances included: several times in 2018 and 2019, the Pompeos asked the senior adviser to help care for their dog; at least 30 times they asked employees to make reservations for personal lunches or dinners (for example, the then-secretary directed a career employee in June 2018 to make a brunch reservation for him and his wife at the Cheesecake Factory); Mrs. Pompeo asked the senior adviser to buy gifts for social visits, unrelated to the department’s business, using department funds; and Mrs. Pompeo asked a career employee to contact the Defense Department to obtain the military service records for her stepfather, so he would receive military protocol at his funeral. Mrs. Pompeo often made requests from her official email account, the IG noted.
Politico, which first reported on the report prior to its publication, noted, “not all of the 100-plus instances were definitively found to constitute a rules violation.”
Besides the tasks, the report cited an incident involving the couple’s adult son and a possible solicitation of gifts using an official position.
In September 2019, the Pompeos and Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao were planning a trip to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for a football game. The son also planned on coming, but since he wasn’t an official guest, had to pay for his travel expenses.
“Evidence suggests” that Bulatao tried to get a price reduction for him, said the report. “Although the hotel room was originally quoted at $242 per night, the final invoice [the IG] obtained shows that the Pompeos’ son was only charged $124 per night and that the hotel booked the travel under a temporary duty rate reserved for federal employees on official business.”
In an interview with the IG, Pompeo said he didn’t recall this event, but said accepting reduced rates by using his position would be “completely inappropriate.”
Despite allegations in the whistleblower complaint, the watchdog found that the Pompeos’ requests to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Agents, which was providing protection for them, were “appropriate with only three exceptions.”
After multiple requests for interviews, the IG interviewed Pompeo on December 23, 2020, during which he defended many of the actions listed in the report. The IG said the delay in interviewing him prolonged the completion of the report. Diana Shaw, deputy State IG, has been serving as the acting IG since December.
Although Pompeo is no longer in office (and therefore not able to be subject to disciplinary measures for federal employees), the IG made three recommendations to the department on how to prevent future officials from making similar violations. They involve updating and creating new guidance documents and the department––now run by Secretary Antony Blinken––agreed with all of them.
In response to the report, Pompeo’s counsel, William Buck, told the IG that the requests were for “de minimis routine and often common courtesy assistance” and most were from Susan Pompeo who was not a State Department employee and, thus, not subject to the State Department’s ethics rules.
Buck was also concerned the report might be “politically motivated” because “it is no secret that some staff in the [Office of Inspector General] strongly disagreed with personnel decisions made during Mr. Pompeo’s tenure,” such as recommending Trump remove State IG Steve Linick in May 2020.
Pompeo said Linick was a “bad actor” who was not working to further the department’s mission, but it was also revealed that Linick’s office was looking into Pompeo’s potential misuse of taxpayer funds by making employees take care of personal matters and investigating arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
NBC News reported last May that Pompeo and his wife hosted taxpayer funded dinners at the State Department for corporate, media and political elites that were not listed on the secretary’s schedule. The dinners started in 2018 and were initially halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, then restarted in September 2020, according to NBC. These dinners were not mentioned in the IG report.
The State IG previously reported in December that although the department had the documentation justifying all of Mrs. Pompeo’s official travel for eight trips between April 2018 and April 2020, the department only provided the appropriate documentation showing approval by an authorized official for two of them. The department, at the time, said the report was a waste of time and resources and claimed complete vindication.