Washington— Senator Robert Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, today announced subpoenas for depositions of key witnesses in the Committees’ joint investigation into the firing of former State Department Inspector General Steve A. Linick. The Committees also released details of a July 24, 2020 voluntary interview of former State Department official Charles Faulkner. Menendez, Engel, and Maloney made the following statement:
“The Administration continues to cover up the real reasons for Mr. Linick’s firing by stonewalling the Committees’ investigation and refusing to engage in good faith. That stonewalling has made today’s subpoenas necessary, and the Committees will continue to pursue this investigation to uncover the truth that the American people deserve.
“We thank Mr. Faulkner for appearing voluntarily last week. His testimony raises additional questions about the Administration’s decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE under a spurious ‘emergency declaration’ in 2019 – questions that we understand the State Department Inspector General’s office sought answers to prior to Mr. Linick’s firing.
“Mr. Faulkner’s testimony depicts a small group of senior State Department officials determined to ignore legitimate humanitarian concerns among their ranks and on Capitol Hill in order to ram through more than $8 billion in arms sales to Gulf countries. And he presented a timeline for these events that refutes a senior official’s testimony to Congress about when these decisions were made.
“The Committees intend to release the transcript of Mr. Faulkner’s interview as soon as possible and will continue to provide updates on the findings of this investigation as additional witnesses provide testimony.”
Today, subpoenas have been issued to the following State Department officials to appear for joint depositions by the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform:
Additionally, last week, at her confirmation hearing to be United States Ambassador to Peru, State Department Executive Secretary Lisa Kenna made an unconditional commitment to appear for a staff-led, transcribed interview conducted by the three committees on August 7, 2020.
Highlights of Charles Faulkner Interview
Secretary Pompeo recommended the President fire Mr. Linick as the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was investigating, at the request of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Trump Administration’s May 2019 emergency declaration to push through more than $8 billion in arms sales to Gulf countries to get around the normal congressional procedure.
Mr. Faulkner testified that Congress had “legitimate” concerns when it was holding up these sales on humanitarian grounds and that State Department officials weren’t surprised by the Saudis’ reckless use of U.S.-built weapons and the resulting loss of innocent life. Nevertheless, the Department’s senior leadership appeared determined to see the sales go forward.
Mr. Faulkner testified that in April 2019, Mr. String, then an official in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, identified an “authority” in the law “that allow[ed] for an emergency declaration of arms transfers.” According to Mr. Faulkner, Mr. String cited “rising tensions” in a “decades-long” conflict among Gulf powers as a basis for such an emergency transfer. This information contradicts testimony from Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs R. Clark Cooper before the Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 12, 2019. At that hearing, in explaining why Secretary Pompeo made no mention of the supposed “emergency” when he briefed Congress on May 21 and then declared an “emergency” on May 24, Assistant Secretary Cooper adopted the position that “within three days, an emergency was created that required that declaration.”
On the day of the emergency declaration, May 24, 2019, Mr. String was promoted to Acting State Department Legal Adviser, a position he still holds. When asked about those two events happening on the same day, Mr. Faulkner testified: “I think I see the significance of those statements.”
Mr. String then appears to have used his new position to try to block scrutiny of his own conduct. In his interview with the Committees, Mr. Linick testified that Mr. String and Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao had attempted to “bully” him for looking into the matter, claiming that a review of that decision was outside the OIG’s purview. Secretary Pompeo himself refused to be interviewed by Mr. Linick as part of that review unless Mr. Linick agreed to interview him personally with no other witnesses present.
Mr. Faulkner testified that State Inspector General staff interviewed him in November 2019 as part of the Inspector General investigation into the emergency declaration and arms sales. Mr. Faulkner stated that he told investigators about State Department staff concerns with Saudi-inflicted civilian casualties, circumventing congressional authority through the use of an emergency declaration, the “impact of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi” on discussions of Saudi arms sales, and other policy options that would have been a “better outcome” for the entire process.
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