During a hearing in June last year, Levin R. Clarke Cooper, Deputy Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, asked if there was an emergency requiring arms sales between May 20 and 21, when Pompeo informed lawmakers in a classified setting and May 24 when the department explained the emergency. Cooper answered in the affirmative.
However, an unedited version of the IG report on the transfer shows that Pompeo told the department to start preparing the emergency declaration much earlier on 4 May.
In short: Mr. Cooper lied. Secretary Pompeo led the invention of an emergency more than two weeks before informing Congress. One did not occur for three days, as Mr. Cooper told me, “Levin said in a statement.”
A Foreign Ministry spokesman did not immediately respond to Levin’s allegations that Cooper lied, saying instead that the situation in the Persian Gulf at the time “very clearly justified” the use of emergency services.
“It is clear that IG also agrees that statutory requirements were met, as they did not find any error in the sale of emergency weapons and clearly stated that the Secretary correctly performed the certification and met the requirements of the Arms Export Control Act,” said the spokesman, who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.
The unclassified version of the report, which was published online on Tuesday, concluded that Pompeo was technically acting within his authority to explain the emergency, given that the relevant rules give him considerable discretion. Nevertheless, IG also stated that the department did not fully consider the risks of civilian injuries surrounding the transfer.
The report, which was released online, gives the impression that Pompeo was quick to address an urgent issue, informed Congress of Iranian threats on May 21, and approved the paperwork two days later. But an unedited version shared with lawmakers on Tuesday reflects a much longer timeline, showing, for example, that staff at the State Department proposed using emergency services on April 3.
The unedited report also shows that when IG began examining the sale in October, foreign partners had only received four of the 22 weapons transfer cases included in the emergency. The low number of deliveries also raises questions about the crisis.
“The report released today is worrying for a whole host of reasons,” Levin said. “But this report also has a special meaning for me personally. It proves that the State Department on June 12, 2019 lied to me – and by extension, to Congress and to the American people.
The report made headlines even before it was released, when Pompeo this year designed the dismissal of Steve Linick, inspector general who initiated the investigation. At the same time, Linick investigated whether Pompeo and his wife, Susan, misused State Department funds for personal reasons.
Since then, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has tried to control the story of the IG’s conclusions hard and required large newsrooms before the report’s release on Tuesday. And on Monday, the department held a background check with reporters aimed at highlighting the finding that Pompeo acted appropriately in issuing the emergency declaration, but did not mention the changing timelines or the decision on civilian accidents. The department did not release the full report until the next day.
The House’s Foreign Minister Eliot Engel (DN.Y.) blew up the effort to put an early spin on IG’s results before the report was released and compared it to Russia’s election interference investigation.
“The people who informed the press were topics for IG’s probe, not the report’s authors,” Engel said in a statement. “This obvious spin-off of the findings is due to an attempt to distract and mislead. Mike Pompeo draws directly from the Bill Barr playbook.”