Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has a tongue-lashing coming his way from Democrats.
Senate Democrats released a report on Tuesday lambasting Pompeo’s management of the State Department just two days before the top US diplomat is set to face a Senate panel on Capitol Hill.
The report, written by the Democratic staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is titled “Diplomacy in Crisis: The Trump Administration’s Decimation of the State Department.”
During a virtual event marking the release of the report on Tuesday afternoon, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, ranking member of the committee, said that decisions by Pompeo and President Donald Trump “have left the [State] Department decimated and demoralized.”
The report examines “senior-level vacancies plaguing the State Department, repeated nominee vetting failures, and attacks on career employees” that Democrats say have harmed morale among diplomatic staff and ultimately damaged US foreign policy. It also issues a set of recommendations for rebuilding and retaining diplomatic expertise.
The Democrats also criticize “the Trump administration’s negligence and its attacks on our diplomatic corps, who serve on the frontlines of our global pandemic response,” which they claim “have left diplomats devoid of leadership and cost the United States valuable time in preparedness and response efforts.”
In an emailed response to the impending report sent to BuzzFeed News, a State Department spokesperson said, “The State Department’s swagger is fully back.”
“From day one, Secretary Pompeo has delivered on advancing the interests and values of the American people both here at home and around the world,” the spokesperson said. “At the core of this success is the dynamic and talented team that forges ahead each and every day with one mission, and toward one future.”
The spokesperson placed the blame for senior-level vacancies on Menendez, saying that if it were not for his efforts to block nominees the State Department “would have even more well-qualified and talented people fulfilling important roles.”
The Democrats’ report comes before Pompeo’s long-awaited appearance before the Republican-led Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, when he will be questioned about the Trump administration’s proposed spending cuts for the State Department for the fiscal year 2021. Pompeo has avoided attempts to be questioned for months.
Pompeo is also likely to be grilled about the firing of former department inspector general Steve Linick, who was reportedly conducting two investigations directly related to the secretary of state: one looking at Pompeo’s efforts to push through $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and another examining whether Pompeo and his wife, Susan, who has been heavily involved in his career, misused office staff to carry out personal and political errands.
Trump fired Linick at Pompeo’s request, but the secretary of state has denied requesting the former inspector general’s ouster to shut down the probes.
Pompeo also could face tough questions about the Trump administration’s hardline policy toward China and his role in the Ukraine saga that ended in Trump’s impeachment in the House of Representatives and subsequent acquittal in the Senate.
In any line of questioning concerning Ukraine, it’s likely the secretary of state will be asked about his treatment of former US ambassador to Kyiv Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled unceremoniously after a targeted campaign against her orchestrated by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Yovanovitch, whose ouster angered career US foreign service officers, was a key witness for Democrats during Trump’s impeachment trial last autumn.
In their report, Democrats blast Trump and Pompeo for failing to nominate candidates for ambassadorships and other open positions.
“Three and a half years into the administration, 11 assistant secretary or under secretary posts — more than one-third — are vacant or filled by acting officials,” according to the report.
It also says career public servants reported that senior State Department leadership “exhibits a sense of disrespect and disdain for their work, prompting many to leave and contributing to a loss of expertise at the department.”
From 2016 to 2019, the report said, “employees in key bureaus reported steep increases in fear of reprisal for reporting suspected violations of law and declining confidence in senior department leadership.”