State Department appoints third Acting Inspector General in 4 months since watchdog ousted

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The State Department has appointed a new acting Inspector General – the third in less than four months to fill the post after the ouster in May of its longtime watchdog, Steve Linick.

Matthew Klimow will now head the office, the State Department confirmed on Thursday, temporarily stepping down as US ambassador to Turkmenistan to assume the post.

Linick’s removal from the office to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, waste and abuse remains at the center of an ongoing congressional investigation.

The State Department’s designation of Klimow as the last acting Inspector General was first reported by Politico.

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Prior to his ambassadorial post, Klimow was a senior adviser in the office of Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao, who has been a central figure in the Congressional inquiry.

Linick told Congress in early June that Bulatao, who did not comply with a subpoena to appear before committees, tried to “intimidate” him into dropping an investigation into an emergency arms sale of $ 8 billion to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The emergency arms sale was one of five investigations initiated by Linick into the secretary’s office, including misuse of State Department resources.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly denied accusations that Linick’s dismissal was in retaliation for any investigation related to his office and refused to comply with subpoenas for related State Department documents and the testimony of an associate diplomat. His obscurity led to the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, DN.Y., to start proceedings last week to hold the secretary in contempt of Congress.

Like Bulatao, Klimow is a West Point graduate and recipient of the Silver Star, the country’s third highest award for his bravery in combat. He has held several positions in the State Department, the White House, the military and NATO.

His first official day was August 31, according to the Office of the Inspector General, but he will return to his post in Ashgabat at the end of December. The reasons for the decision to call on Klimow as another temporary watchdog were not immediately clear.

A Congressional Democratic aide expressed concern that the State Department could put Klimow in place to echo the decisions of Diana Shaw, who hails from the IG community and served as an MP under Steve Linick and his replacement Stephen Akard.

Shaw took over as an interim IG after Akard abruptly left the office in early August to return to the private sector after less than three months on the job. As Director of the Foreign Missions Office reporting directly to Bulatao, Akard’s selection as head of the office drew criticism from Engel and House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, who said that this choice “created serious conflicts of interest”.

That was Shaw’s name on the report when the OIG’s investigation into the $ 8 billion emergency arms transfer to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was released last month. The report found that the State Department did not violate US law by circumventing Congress with the declaration of emergency, but also found that the Trump administration did not assess the risk of civilian deaths in the Yemen upon approval of the sale. The State Department also redacted parts of the report ahead of its release, including details of the State Department’s decision-making timeline in the run-up to the declaration of emergency in late May.

A spokesperson for the office’s inspector general confirms that Shaw will remain as a member of the BIG which has not had a leader confirmed by Congress since May.

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