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Opinion Secretary of state’s NASCAR diplomacy needs a pit stop

23:44  22 may  2020
23:44  22 may  2020 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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Something looks rotten in the State Department of Mike Pompeo.

An NBC News report added more reason to suspect the judgment, fiscal responsibility, and even integrity of Secretary of State Pompeo. All three already were in question when reports emerged that Pompeo was under investigation by the State Department’s inspector general for allegedly using a staffer to walk his dog, handle his dry cleaning, and other personal tasks. The same inspector general, Steve Linick, also was probing Pompeo’s handling of an arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

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 Mike Pompeo under pressure from a new case © ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS The head of the American diplomacy Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan Pompeo in February in Senegal. During the weekend, Mike Pompeo did not react to the new affair that splashes him. Without referring to it, he tweeted from his personal account a photo of his new puppy.

Then Pompeo strongly recommended that President Trump fire Linick and Trump complied without specifying a reason other than that he “no longer” had “the fullest confidence” in the job Linick was doing. The obvious impression, whether true or not, is that the firing was an attempt to stop the investigations and punish Linick for them. (Pompeo now claims he was unaware of Linick’s probe into his alleged misuse of the staffer.)

The firing of Linick, such as the firing or demotions of three other inspectors general in recent weeks, should be extremely troubling to anyone concerned about corruption or inefficiency in government. As Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa repeatedly has said, the administration’s treatment of inspectors general flagrantly violates the spirit of, and arguably the letter of, the laws creating those inspectors.

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On top of that, though, now comes this week’s NBC News report. According to the network, Pompeo and his wife, Susan, have used State Department resources in the past two years to host some two dozen expensive, elaborate soirees known as “Madison Dinners.” Some departmental officials, NBC reports, “said they had raised concerns internally that the events were essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s political ambitions — complete with extensive contact information that gets sent back to Susan Pompeo’s personal email address.”

The dinners are financed through a budget line item titled “Emergencies in the Diplomatic and Consular Service Appropriation” meant for “confidential requirements in the conduct of foreign affairs. ...”

Yet the guest lists and formats of these large dinners hardly seem pursuant to “emergencies” or “confidential requirements.” Yes, some foreign dignitaries always are invited, but a huge majority of the guests are Republican insiders and financiers or celebrities. Invitees have included lobbyist and political consultant David Urban, numerous Fox News personalities, Chick-fil-A Chairman Dan Cathy, American Gaming Association President Bill Miller, and NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

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The events include tours of ornate State Department rooms, cocktails, and a dinner featuring informal conversation with no specific theme or topic. The events are not coordinated with the relevant bureaus of the department, so there apparently is no follow-up from those bureaus to discover what was discussed by the few foreign officials in attendance.

Somehow, it seems doubtful that much good is done for U.S. foreign policy to have a gambling-lobby president and a NASCAR driver randomly sharing a large dinner table with, say, an ambassador from South Korea, with no specified agenda. It certainly answers no “emergency.”

These galas may not be technically illegal, but either way, they stink like possum carcasses rotting in July. Combined with the alleged misuse of staffers and with what looks like illicit retaliation against the inspector general, these shindigs give the secretary of state’s office the aspect of an ethical hazardous waste dump.

Both Congress and the Justice Department should investigate — and, even if no illegal activity is found, the president should proclaim a pause to Pompeo’s pomp and pampering.

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