Although she does not have an official position in the State Department, Susan Pompeo has nonetheless requested and will be accompanied by personal screening officers – officials from the U.S. Embassy who will organize her trip and attend to her needs. – during her stay in each of the four countries she is about to visit. , according to someone with knowledge of the trip planning.
Susan Pompeo’s travel plans, revealed as most Americans remain largely banned from traveling to Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic, marks the latest example of her involvement in her husband’s official government functions. His presence could attract a closer examination of his use of federal resources, which had previously sparked an investigation by an internal State Department watchdog.
The State Department said Monday that legal and ethical advisers had authorized Susan Pompeo’s participation in the European trip.
“The State Department’s legal and ethics team has determined that Ms. Pompeo’s role on this trip will advance our country’s foreign policy goals,” a State Department spokesperson wrote in a statement. sent to CNBC.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan speak with Emirati Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus in Abu Dhabi on January 13, 2019.
Andrew CAballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images
Susan Pompeo’s participation in the trip drew criticism, however.
“American diplomats abroad are desperately trying to protect themselves and their families while serving this country,” said Brett Bruen, who served as a diplomat for 12 years in the Bush and Obama administrations.
“In what world is it wise or safe to have the secretary’s family accompany them on a trip?” This is not a legal or logical use of taxpayer resources during a pandemic, ”added Bruen, former director of global engagement at the White House and chairman of international consultancy Global Situation Room.
The US delegation to Europe is scheduled to depart Monday evening for a four-day trip to Pilsen and Prague in the Czech Republic; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Vienna, Austria and Warsaw, Poland.
U.S. embassies in the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria and Poland did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
Mike Pompeo, the country’s top diplomat, came under fire in May when Trump impeached State Inspector General Steve Linick without immediately providing a clear explanation.
The president said at the time in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., That he approved the late-night dismissal because he had lost “confidence” in Linick. Days later, Trump told reporters that Pompeo asked him to fire Linick. “I don’t know him, never heard of him, but they asked me to fire him,” Trump said of the former inspector general.
At the time of his dismissal, Linick’s office had looked into at least two cases involving Pompeo: a review of his approval of a multi-billion dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia that bypassed the approval Congress, and an investigation into whether Pompeo and his wife abused government resources.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan chat while waiting to leave his plane as it lands at Sydney Airport in Sydney on August 3, 2019.
Jonathan Ernst | AFP | Getty Images
This latest investigation involved allegations that Pompeo made a member of staff do personal errands for him and Susan Pompeo, including walking their dog, taking his dry cleaning and making dinner reservations, sources told NBC News in May.
Congressional Democrats are investigating whether Pompeo’s decision to have Linick fired was an act of retaliation. Pompeo denied that the dismissal was an act of retaliation, arguing he was unaware of the probes when he recommended Linick’s removal. But Pompeo also admitted that he answered questions sent by the monitoring office related to an investigation.
Congressional investigators asked Linick in June if any of the potential issues he was investigating related to funds spent for Susan Pompeo to accompany her husband on official travel. “I cannot go into the specific allegations,” Linick replied, according to a transcript of his testimony.
Pompeo said at the end of May that he should have recommended that Linick be fired earlier, accusing Linick’s office of leaks and “investigating policies he just didn’t like.”