Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed that his recommendation to fire an inspector general who was investigating him couldn’t possibly have been retaliatory, because he did not even know about the investigation.

But newly revealed testimony from the inspector general, Steve Linick, casts more serious doubt on that already dubious claim.

In a news conference a few weeks ago, Pompeo claimed that he did not know about Linick’s investigation of Pompeo and his wife’s alleged use of State Department staff for personal errands.

“I have no sense of what investigations were taking place inside the inspector general’s office,” Pompeo said on May 20. “I couldn’t possibly have retaliated for all the things I’ve seen — the various stories that someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner. It’s all just crazy.”

Pompeo, though, admitted that he did know about another investigation involving him — one having to do with the Trump administration’s Saudi Arabia arms deal, in which Pompeo answered Linick’s questions in writing. But he suggested the personal errands investigation was a complete mystery to him.

“I didn’t have access to that information,” Pompeo said, “so I couldn’t possibly have retaliated.”

Linick indicated in a newly revealed interview with lawmakers last week that he had made high-ranking State Department officials aware of the personal errands investigation, too.

“As to that review, I never spoke with the Secretary directly about it,” Linick said, according to a transcript of his private testimony released Wednesday morning. “There was a point in time in late 2019 that my office reached out to get documents from the office of the secretary as well as the office of the legal adviser. And during that same period of time, I did speak with Undersecretary [Brian] Bulatao, possibly Deputy Secretary [John] Sullivan — but I am not sure — about the reasons — about the fact that we were making these document requests so they weren’t surprised.”

Linick said that he also told Deputy Secretary Steve Biegun about the probe and that his staff also “reached out to Lisa Kenna,” the State Department’s executive secretary.

President Trump has fired a record number of inspectors general, an institution set up to restore public trust in the wake of Watergate. (The Washington Post)

Some media outlets have previously reported that Linick said he had made top State Department officials aware of both investigations, but the full context of Linick’s testimony was not previously available.

Linick stated that he told these officials because he wanted to make sure the “Seventh Floor” of the State Department — where high-ranking officials including Pompeo work — would not be caught off guard by the probe.

“I didn’t want them to be surprised,” Linick said. “And I told him the nature of the documents that we would be requesting.”

Linick repeatedly declined to say whether his intent was for these officials to give Pompeo a heads-up — he said merely that he wanted to make sure the Seventh Floor was aware — but he also stated that he did not warn them officials against telling Pompeo. And Bulatao is one of Pompeo’s closest allies, having previously served as chief operating officer of the CIA when Pompeo served as the intelligence agency’s director. Pompeo said in an interview last year that Bulatao was one of his “longest, best friends in the whole world.”

So in order for Pompeo’s defense to hold up, Linick would have informed all of these high-ranking officials — including a very close ally in Bulatao — and requested documents from the secretary’s office, yet none of this would have been brought to Pompeo’s attention.

Pompeo’s defense was already a strained one. Even while saying the firing couldn’t possibly have been retaliatory, he admitted he knew about one investigation — the Saudi arms deal one — that involved him personally. Linick had also issued other reports that reflected poorly upon the State Department. Even without the personal errands investigation, it’s plausible that Pompeo could have retaliated for these probes.

Linick’s testimony now, though, raises very serious questions about how it would be possible Pompeo did not also know about the investigation that hit the closest to home for him — the one involving alleged personal errands.