Yet another Pompeo controversy involves the secretary of state directing State officials to perform household tasks for him and his wife, like washing dishes or walking his dog. That issue, too, has only gained steam in recent days, embroiling Susan Pompeo, whom the Times reports has “played an unusually active role” in Pompeo’s State business. “She has this quasi-official role, where my friends are called to meetings she is leading at the department,” former career diplomat Brett Bruen, who served as the director of global engagement on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, told the Times. “They know that’s not supposed to happen, because she isn’t in their chain of command. But what can they do?” It was previously reported that Mrs. Pompeo has asked State officials to pick up takeout food, pick up their dog from the groomers, and tend to her needs while overseas. But Slate reported Thursday that her requests have extended even further, with security officials being ordered to pick up Susan Pompeo from the airport when she visited her mother in Louisiana. They were then reportedly told to pack up her mother’s house and “cart away boxes” when her mother moved into a Kansas retirement home.
Beyond the Pompeos’ mounting scandals amid Linick’s firing, even the now-former I.G.’s successor has already come under scrutiny days into the job. Stephen Akard assumed the I.G. job Monday—despite the law requiring that a president give Congress 30 days notice before firing an inspector general—but announced he would keep his job leading the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions. That creates an apparent conflict of interest, given that as both a State official and its watchdog, Akard will now be responsible for overseeing himself. “Embedding a political ally to serve as I.G. who is still working in the very agency they are supposed to oversee is very problematic and an affront to that independence,” Senator Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, told the Washington Post. “I have trouble seeing how Ambassador Akard could fulfill those duties effectively given the circumstances and without stepping down from his current role.”
Pompeo’s apparent misbehavior in office isn’t really anything new, with State officials and the diplomatic community long viewing the secretary as one who cares more for keeping Trump happy and protecting himself than doing his job effectively. “There’s a kind of resigned disgust that this is what it’s come to: the secretary of state doesn’t run foreign policy—or even really understand it all that well—but simply seeks to extend Trump’s domestic ambitions outside U.S. borders for his audience of one,” a former senior U.S. official told Tracy in May about Pompeo’s attacks on China amid the coronavirus. “People haven’t wanted to believe this, but it seems increasingly apparent.” But as Tracy notes, as the scandals make it even more obvious that Pompeo is putting his own political ambitions at the forefront, he may soon find himself on the wrong side of a president who wants his people to act only in slavish devotion to him. While Pompeo may be using his office to get a boost on the political ladder, should the avalanche of controversies run him out of a job—and a political ally in Trump—he’ll ultimately have even further to climb.
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