• Thu. Oct 22nd, 2020

State Dept. names third acting inspector general in 4 months since watchdog was ousted

The State Department has named a new acting inspector general — the third in the less than four months to take on the position following the May ousting of its long-serving watchdog, Steve Linick.

Matthew Klimow will now lead the office, the State Department confirmed Thursday, temporarily leaving his position as U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan to take on the position.

Linick’s removal from the office tasked with investigating allegations of wrongdoing, waste and abuse, remains the focus of an ongoing Congressional probe.

The State Department’s naming of Klimow as the latest acting inspector general was first reported by Politico.

Prior to his ambassadorship, Klimow was a senior adviser in the Office of the Under Secretary of Management Brian Bulatao who has been a central figure in the Congressional investigation.

Linick told Congress in early June that Bulatao, who has not complied with a subpoena to appear before the committees, had tried to “bully” him into dropping an investigation into an $8 billion emergency arms sale to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The emergency arms sale was one of five open investigations by Linick involving the Office of the Secretary including alleged misuse of State Department resources.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly denied accusations that Linick’s removal was in retaliation for any investigations tied to his office and refused to comply with subpoenas for related State Department documents and associated diplomat’s testimony. His obfuscation led House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., to initiate proceedings last week to hold the Secretary in contempt of Congress.

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

His first official day was Aug. 31, according to the Office of Inspector General but he will return to his post in Ashgabat in late December. The reasons behind the decision to tap Klimow as another temporary watchdog were not immediately clear.

One Democratic congressional aide expressed concern that the State Department may be putting Klimow in place to paper over the decisions of Diana Shaw who comes from the IG community and served as deputy under both Steve Linick and his replacement Stephen Akard.

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

It was Shaw’s name on the report when the OIG’s investigation into the $8 billion emergency arms transfer to Saudi Arabia and the UAE was released last month. The report found the State Department did not violate U.S. law by sidestepping Congress with the emergency declaration but also concluded the Trump administration had failed to assess the risk of civilian deaths in Yemen when approving the sale. The State Department also redacted portions of the report before its release including details on the timeline of the State Department’s decision making in the run-up to the emergency declaration in late May.

A spokesperson for the Office Inspector General confirms Shaw will stay on as deputy for the OIG which has not had a Congressionally confirmed leader since May.