Steve Linick is the State Department Inspector General and a key figure in the House Democrats impeachment investigation which has been fueled by the US Intelligence Community’s Inspector General’s review of a whistleblower complaint. The complaint alleges that Donald Trump sought help from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and interfere in the 2020 elections.
According to ABC News, Linick requested an “urgent” briefing with staffers from several House and Senate committees for Wednesday morning. The private briefing, which will occur in a secure location on Capitol Hill, concerns “documents obtained from the department’s Office of the Legal Adviser related to the State Department and Ukraine.”
President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani were named in the whistleblower complaint alleging they had pushed for Zelensky and the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The investigation is centered on Hunter’s role as a Director at Ukrainian company Burisma holdings and the subsequent firing of former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin.
There are 5 State department officials scheduled to testify before Congress in the next 2 weeks, US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent.
It’s unclear exactly what will be discussed at the emergency briefing on Wednesday. One congressional aide called Linick’s request “highly unusual and cryptically worded.” The briefing also comes at an unusual time as congress is currently in recess.
The briefing also comes on the heels of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushing back against House Democrats demands to turn over documents related to Ukraine and depose state officials. Pompeo accused Democrats of “bullying” State Department employees and in a letter to House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel said the proposed schedule did not provide “adequate time for the Department and its employees to prepare.”
Pompeo said members of his staff will not attend the depositions. He sent a letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. which he also posted on Twitter which read, “I’m concerned with aspects of the Committee’s request that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, & treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career FSOs.”
Engel, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-MD responded to Pompeo’s letter with a joint statement on Tuesday afternoon and said if the reports are true, then Pompeo “is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry.”
“Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress — including State Department employees — is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.” They wrote.
Steve Linick was appointed as the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors in September 2013. Prior to that, he was an Assistant United States Attorney in California and Virginia. He attended Georgetown University where he earned his B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy as well as a Juris Doctorate.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Investigated the Trump Administration’s Alleged Mistreatment of Its Workforce
Steve Linick led an investigation into the Trump administration’s alleged mistreatment of employees by the department’s political appointees at the Bureau of International Organizations and the Office of the Secretary. He submitted his report to Congress and testified before them in July.
Linick and the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General concluded after an 18-month probe that Kevin Moley, the assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs and senior advisor Mari Stull, had engaged in “inappropriate practices,” including the “disrespectful and hostile treatment of employees … and harassment of career employees premised on claims that they were ‘disloyal’ based on their perceived political views.” Linick recommended “corrective action” for Stull as well as unspecified disciplinary action against Moley.
“There is evidence that it has affected staffing, for example, in consular operations,” Linick told congress. “It has affected staffing in the bureau of diplomatic security, which obviously affects our security if we have limited staff. It’s affected our IT staff.” He added that “we have not recovered yet in our civil service staffing levels at this point.”
2. He Investigated Hillary Clinton for Her Use of a Private Email Server
Steve Linick was in charge of the Inspector General probe and report into the now infamous Hillary Clinton email case.
The report was separate from the FBI investigation into whether or not Clinton was involved in criminal wrongdoing for her use of a private email server.
In the report, Linick concludes that using her personal email for State Department business was not “appropriate”. He leveled two significant criticisms at Clinton for her method of record retention and potential security risk in transmitting classified information via her personal email address.
Clinton and her aides defended her actions by saying she sent her emails to her employees’ government email addresses which would be documented on government servers. Linick wrote that this was “not an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a Federal record.”
After Clinton turned over 30,000 emails from her private server, Linick and Inspector General Charles McCullough who oversees U.S. intelligence agencies found that that a sampling of 40 of about 30,000 emails contained “classified” information.
“These emails were not retroactively classified by the State Department; rather these emails contained classified information when they were generated and, according to IC classification officials, that information remains classified today,” McCullough and Linick said in a July 2015 press statement.
Linick also wrote in his report that the “OIG found no evidence that the Secretary requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server.”
Clinton declined to be interviewed by Steve Linick or his staff as part of his review.
3. He Was Appointed as State Department Inspector General After the Position Was Vacant for 5 Years
President Obama nominated Steve A. Linick as State Department Inspector General in 2013 after 1,989 days of the position being vacant. Howard J. Krongard announced his resignation on December 7, 2007 and the position remained vacant throughout Obama’s entire first term.
Senator Ted Cruz finally threatened to block State Department nominees until the federal agency filled the vacant inspector general position.
“The President’s failure to nominate a State Department Inspector General since taking office in 2009 is unacceptable. The position has been vacant for almost 2,000 days. This is a crucial oversight position and should be a priority for an agency facing substantial management challenges,” Cruz said in a statement back in 2013.
That same week, the Obama White House nominated Linick who went through the approval process and was appointed 3 months later.
4. He Was the First Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency
Steve Linick was appointed as the first Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and served in the role from 2010 – 2013.
According to the FHFA-OIG website, the purpose of the office is to “promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of FHFA’s programs and operations, including its conservatorships of the Enterprises and protects FHFA and the entities it regulates against fraud, waste, and abuse, contributing to the liquidity and stability of the nation’s housing finance system.
At FHFA, Linick oversaw the agency’s regulation of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the dozen federal home loan banks.
5. He Thoroughly Investigated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Linick wasted no time going after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after being appointed as the FHFA Inspector General. Right after taking office he told both agencies that he wouldn’t be an ordinary regulator. He pledged to thoroughly investigate their operations and actions in order to ensure taxpayer money was being spent responsibly.
Linick first investigated the salaries of Fannie and Freddie executives who made a total of $36 million in 2009 and 2010 in order to find if they were justified. Per an interview with Robert Stowe England, Linick said he “found in our report that FHFA reviewed and approved these payments based on recommendations by Fannie and Freddie. But we also found that FHFA didn’t independently test or validate the recommendations.”
“FHFA should have done more to determine whether or not compensation levels were reasonable. Two, they lacked key controls to monitor executive compensation. And three, they have not been sufficiently transparent. And we made recommendations in order address these findings.” He added.
In a separate investigation, Linick’s office found that many of the mortgage abuses could have been prevented if Freddie and Fannie had implemented an adequate risk program. “For a five-year period, from 2006 to 2011, OFHEO and then FHFA repeatedly cited Fannie Mae for not implementing an effective operational risk program.” he told Robert Stowe England, “And despite these findings, Fannie Mae has not yet implemented an effective program and FHFA has not required it to do so.”
He filed a separate report that Bank of America shortchanged taxpayers billions of dollars by selling shoddy mortgages to Freddie Mac.
He was praised and criticized for his diligent efforts in holding the agencies accountable.