(CNSNews.com) – President Trump expressed disbelief Monday about the possibility that the State Department inspector general whom he removed last week had been investigating whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had improperly got employees to do personal errands like walk his dog.
“I think this country has a long way to go,” he told reporters at the White House after musing about the dog-walking claims. “The priorities are really screwed up when I read this.”
Trump said he removed Inspector General Steve Linick, an Obama appointee, from his post at Pompeo’s request, characterizing the removal of an IG appointed by a previous administration as a standard practice.
Media outlets have reported that Linick had been investigating whether Pompeo had staffers carry out personal errands for him, including walking his dog. There were also claims of an IG investigation into Pompeo’s fast-tracking of a Saudi arms deal last summer.
A reporter asked Trump if he was concerned that Pompeo may have asked him to remove Linick from his post to avoid an investigation into himself.
“Secretary Pompeo was reportedly under investigation both for having staffers do personal errands, like walking his dog and picking up his dry cleaning, and concerns that he may have subverted the will of Congress with … Saudi arms deals,” he said. “Are you concerned that he may have made this request to avoid an investigation?”
Trump said he knew nothing about the claims. But he took issue with the notion that Pompeo asking a staffer to walk his dog should be considered a serious matter.
“But this is what you get with the Democrats,” he said. “Here’s a man supposed to be negotiating war and peace with major, major countries, with weaponry like the world has never seen before. And the Democrats and the fake news media, they’re interested in a man who is walking their dog?”
“And maybe he’s busy, and maybe he’s negotiating with Kim Jong Un, okay? About nuclear weapons. So that he’d say, ‘Please, could you walk my dog? Do you mind walking my dog? I’m talking to Kim Jong Un.’ Or, ‘I’m talking to [Chinese] President Xi about paying us for some of the damage they’ve caused to the world and to us. Please walk my dog.’ To who? A Secret Service person or somebody, right?”
“I don’t know,” Trump said. “I think this country has a long way to go. The – the priorities are really screwed up when I read this.”
On the claim relating to the Saudi arms deal, Trump said he did not know what the reporter was talking about, although he did defend arms sales in general, especially in cases where the prospective buyer may then look to Russia or China as alternative suppliers.
“I know this: that we have countries that want to buy our arms, and we make it so difficult for them that they end up going to Russia and China,” he said. “And under my administration, if they’re friendly countries, I try and make it as easy as possible.”
“If they want to buy our fighter jets, and if they want to give us billions and billions of dollars, and they have other alternatives, including China, Russia, and others. I think we should make it as easy as possible for them, and we should take the jobs and take the money because it’s billions of dollars.”
Last April Trump vetoed bipartisan legislation calling on the U.S. to end military support to the Saudi-led campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The war has contributed to a serious humanitarian crisis in that country.
Weeks later, Pompeo invoked emergency provisions in the Arms Export Control Act – the 1976 law governing arms sales – and said the administration was moving ahead with military deals with Saudi Arabia (as well as with Jordan and the UAE).
Pompeo told the Washington Post on Monday he had asked Trump to remove Linick because he was dissatisfied with his performance.
Pompeo said that at the time he recommended his removal, he had not been aware that Linick was investigating him.