Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly refused to be interviewed by a State Department watchdog probe examining the Trump administration’s $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year.
The investigation was prompted by a controversial move from last May, when Trump used an emergency declaration to bypass Congress in order to expedite multi-billion dollar arms sales to several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia. According to Pompeo, the goal was to “support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
CNN has reported that Secretary Pompeo refused to cooperate by submitting to an interview in the probe led by the State Department inspector general, Steve Linick. Muddying the waters further, Linick was fired by Trump just last week.
When asked, Pompeo denied knowledge of the investigation, though he admitted recommending Linick’s firing. President Trump also stated that he had fired Linick on Pompeo’s request.
Under Trump, the US has been increasingly strengthening its relationship with Saudi Arabia, partly to deter an increasingly assertive Iran, towards which the president has taken a hard line in view of their perceived aggression. However, at the same time, there are reasons America might not want to cozy up too much to the oil kingdom.
One is Saudi Arabia’s generally awful record on human rights. Last year, the state sought an execution, potentially by crucifixion or dismemberment, for an 18-year-old who had protested the government as a teenager.
There also remain questions about the country’s potential role in the deadly 9/11 terrorist attacks, bolstered by a recent accidental reveal by the FBI of the identity of a Saudi diplomat who is suspected to have aided the Al Qaeda hijackers.
However, this may also be a case of the fake news media trying to stir up controversy surrounding the Trump administration where none is warranted. The CNN report cited many Democrats who condemned Trump and Pompeo’s actions, but did not provide concrete evidence that anything untoward had occurred surrounding the probe or Linick’s firing.