The internal watchdog looking into accusations against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abruptly quit Wednesday, just months after his predecessor was fired.
The State Department’s acting inspector general, Stephen Akard, is a longtime aide to Vice President Mike Pence and his installation in May had widely been seen as a way to keep a friendly figure in the role.
Akard informed colleagues that he is “returning to the private sector after years of public service,” a State Department spokesperson said.
“We appreciate his dedication to the Department and to our country.”
But Akard’s departure comes just as his office finalizes a report on Pompeo’s controversial decision to bypass Congress to sell $8.1 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies.
President Donald Trump fired Akard’s predecessor, Steve Linick, in May on Pompeo’s advice as he probed the affair.
Linick was also looking into allegations that Pompeo abused his power by asking a State Department employee to run personal errands such as walking his dog and going to the dry cleaner.
Pompeo — who postponed a press conference Wednesday as the news broke — has said that he did not approve of Linick’s work and that Trump had authority to remove him regardless of the reason.
A former Pompeo aide last week told lawmakers investigating Linick’s firing that State Department employees had voiced concern about the arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Lawmakers had warned that the weapons sale would lead to more suffering in Yemen, where a Saudi-led air campaign has hit schools, hospitals and other civilian sites as the kingdom tries to dislodge Huthi rebels.
Pompeo bypassed Congress by declaring an emergency involving Iran, which backs the Huthis.
The new acting inspector general will be Diana Shaw, a lawyer and veteran of the watchdog’s office.
As the deputy, she would have been in line to be acting inspector general when Linick was fired, raising eyebrows on why Akard was installed instead.
Akard comes from Pence’s home state of Indiana and advised him as governor. He also quit as head of the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions, which deals with embassies.
© 2020 AFP
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